KUSA – It has the potential to help people addicted to opiates or heroin. The FDA approved an implant called Probuphine earlier this year. It helps reduce opiate cravings and eliminates the possibility of misusing the medicine.
Now, some of the first patients in the metro area are receiving the implant, including Brittany, 32, who asked that we not use her last name.
"It is an exhausting disease to try and put on that face every day like you're fine," she said. "I got pretty desperate and went as far as – I broke my own foot to get pain medication."
Brittany's been clean for years now with the help of an oral medication, but she's now trying something different, an implant.
“It's just such a sense of security," she said.
The Probuphine implant was approved in May by the FDA. It's placed under the skin of a patient's arm and slowly releases the drug buprenorphine, which attaches to receptors in the brain and reduces the craving for opiates and symptoms of withdrawl. Patients have to have taken the oral form of the medication, before they can get an implant.
Dr. Nathan Moore of MedNOW Clinic in Aurora is Brittany's doctor and one of 15 in the Denver metro area trained to surgically insert the implant.
"Patients are maintained on this medication,” Dr. Moore said. “They can lead a pretty normal life, without having the ups and downs, withdrawls and being out of work, things like that."
The drug in the implant has been available in an oral form since 2002, but Dr. Moore said that can have drawbacks, like forgetting to take it, or taking too much, or too little.
"We frequently have patients that come in that have not been taking their medication, or that have lost their medication or had it stolen,” Dr. Moore said. “Also, sometimes patients divert their medication, so they sell it to somebody else and they're not getting the true benefit of the medication."
The implant prevents that from happening and works in six month intervals. Some patients may have to use it for years. For Brittany, it’s a sense of relief.
"I am really excited,” she said. “I think it's going to go really well. I'm like, 'Oh my goodness! Tomorrow's a whole new day for me, I feel like."
The implant costs nearly five thousand dollars. A spokesperson for Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, the company behind it, said some major national insurance plans have indicated to them that they will cover it. The company also said it offers financial assistance to patients.