(U.S. Food and Drug Administration/Public domain)

Six-month implant newest option to treat addiction amid opioid crisis

B.C. has been the hardest hit by opioid-linked deaths in the past two years

Canadians addicted to opioids may be eligible for an implant that provides an ongoing low dose of medication for six months, with the potential for treatment for up to a year when a new implant is placed in the opposite arm.

The procedure involves trained physicians inserting match-stick sized rods under the skin of the upper arm, each containing the medication buprenorphine.

Health Canada approved the implant in April 2018, two years after it was granted approval in the United States. It is marketed under the brand name Probuphine and is the first such implant for the treatment of addiction to opioids.

Dr. Seonaid Nolan, a clinical researcher with the BC Centre on Substance Use and an addiction medicine physician at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, said the implant is another treatment option alongside medications including Suboxone, the recommended treatment for an opioid addiction, followed by methadone.

“It’s so important to have a number of treatment options because there’s no one-size-fits-all for turning the tide on the opioid crisis,” said Nolan, who is also medical director of the addiction program at Providence Health Care.

The implant’s main advantage is that it eliminates barriers such as patients having to remember to take daily tablets of Suboxone, which can be a particular challenge for those entrenched in addiction while battling issues such as poverty, lack of housing and unemployment, she said.

The implant would also do away with the need for patients to take a drug under supervision, at least initially, in order to ensure compliance and deal with risks of it being diverted or misused.

Nolan said one addiction-medicine doctor at St. Paul’s Hospital has been trained on how to insert the implant, considered a viable option for people being released from correctional facilities, residential treatment programs and prolonged hospital stays because their tolerance to illicit opioids would be markedly reduced, putting them at higher risk of overdose.

The Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health, which reviews all drugs and devices approved by Health Canada, said in a statement it has recommended provincial drug plans reimburse the cost of the implant for patients who have been stabilized on no more than eight mg of buprenorphine, in conjunction with counselling.

The agency’s drug-expert committee says the cost of the implant should not exceed the total drug plan cost of buprenorphine at a dose not exceeding eight milligrams a day.

The Health Ministry in British Columbia, the hardest-hit province in the overdose crisis, with more than 3,000 fatalities over the past two years, said the province’s independent Drug Benefit Council is conducting its own review of the implant before it determines whether the cost will be covered.

Montreal-based Knight Therapeutics licensed the implant from a U.S. company to commercialize and distribute it in Canada.

Knight Therapeutics president Samira Sakhia said the cost would be $1,495 per implant, equivalent to six months of treatment on Suboxone.

The company has trained doctors in major Canadian cities on how to insert the implant, she said.

“We are early in our launch. What we’re trying to do is make sure that if a physician has a patient who they feel would benefit from Probuphine what we would do is co-ordinate with that physician so that if they’re not trained they have access to someone who is trained and is close enough to them and their patient.”

READ MORE: B.C. opioid overdoses still killing four people a day, health officials say

READ MORE: Health Canada warns against giving opioid-containing cough, cold meds to youth

Sakhia said one patient, in the Maritimes, has so far received the implant in Canada.

“It’s a complicated product because of the nature of it being an implant and we are trying to do what we can to make sure that physicians are trained, knowledgeable, and we’re working towards reimbursement because that will make access easier.”

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Port Alberni poet shortlisted for B.C. award

Port Alberni’s Derek Hanebury is a former instructor at North Island College

Indigenous youth connect with their culture at Gathering Our Voices workshops

Secluded Wellness Centre in Port Alberni hosted traditional wildcraft sessions

Illegal cannabis club in Port Alberni ticketed again

RCMP seize cannabis, issue fine for second time in five months

Motorists attempted CPR on victim in fatal Highway 4 crash west of Whiskey Creek

Witnesses say three vehicles involved in collision; man in 70s confirmed dead

Chef returns to North Island College to inspire young cooks

Tina Tang shares her culinary journey since graduating

Port Alberni Fire Department engages Indigenous youth in fire awareness

Workshop took place as part of Gathering Our Voices event in Port Alberni

Trudeau calls May 6 byelection for B.C. riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith

The riding opened up when Sheila Malcolmson resigned in January

Calgary captain has 3 points as Flames torch Canucks 3-1

Giordano leads way as Alberta side cracks 100-point plateau

Fire crews battle large blaze at Courtenay hostel

Courtenay Fire Chief Don Bardonnex said nobody was injured

1,300 cruise ship passengers rescued by helicopter amid storm off Norway’s coast

Rescue teams with helicopters and boats were sent to evacuate the cruise ship under extremely difficult circumstances

B.C. university to offer first graduate program on mindfulness in Canada

University of the Fraser Valley says the mostly-online program focuses on self-care and well being

Province announces $18.6 million for B.C. Search and Rescue

The funding, spread over three years, to pay for operations, equipment, and training

Late-season wave of the flu makes its round in B.C.

BC Centre for Disease Control reported 50 per cent jump in flu cases in first weeks of March

Tofino’s housing crisis causing some to seek shelter at the local hospital

Tofino’s housing crisis is pushing the town’s ‘hidden homeless’ population into the forefront.

Most Read