(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

Cowichan 49ers return to Tony Grover Cup final

The Cowichan 49ers are back in the Tony Grover Cup final after… Continue reading

Nanaimo rink wins Duncan mixed bonspiel

Many local teams in the mix

Flu outbreak at Cowichan District Hospital

42 people diagnosed at facility since March 15

LEXI BAINAS COLUMN: Bikers, dreadlocks, and all that jazz

From happenings down on the farm to how to hang your self: get it all here

Protective human chain forms around Victoria mosque for Friday prayer

Islanders stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

Coming up in Cowichan: World Water Day

Shawnigan Lake marks World Water Day Got clean local water? “The ability… Continue reading

‘Families torn apart:’ Truck driver in fatal Broncos crash gets 8-year sentence

Judge Inez Cardinal told court in Melfort, Sask., that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea were mitigating factors

Boy who went missing from park remains largest probe in Victoria police history

The four-year old Victoria boy went missing without a trace on March 24, 1991

WestJet sticking with Boeing 737 Max once planes certified to fly

WestJet had expected to add two more of the planes this year to increase its fleet to 13

B.C. driver caught going 207 km/h on motorcycle along Okanagan Highway

A motorcyclist was caught by Kelowna RCMP going 207 km/h on Highway 97C

Protective human chain forms around B.C. mosque for Friday prayer

Vancouver Islanders stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

Motorcyclist dies after three-vehicle crash on old Island Highway

Accident happened at 12:15 p.m. Friday near Country Club Centre in Nanaimo

Most Read