This site is intended for health professionals only

New drug treatment approved in USA

A new treatment for heroin and painkiller addiction has been approved in the US by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Vivitrol, which has been used to treat alcohol addiction in the US since 2006, can now be prescribed to patients with drug addictions.

It differs from other drug treatments such as methadone and bupenorphrine (Suboxone) because patients inject it monthly rather than taking it daily by mouth.

It is also not an opioid, but a long-acting form of naltrexone which blocks opioids.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse claim that around 810,000 Americans are addicted to heroin and 1.85 million to painkillers such as OxyContin.

The FDA approved the use of Vivitrol for drug addiction after a study was conducted using 250 patients in Russia, the only other country where it is approved for treating alcohol addiction.

Richard Pops, the CEO for Alkermes which markets the drug said: “This is such a new market.”

The company claims that more than 45,000 people have used Vivitrol for alcohol treatment, some for more than four years.

Doctors have been able to prescribe it “off label” to drug addict patients, but at $1,100 (£685) per injection, few have chosen to do so.

Copyright Press Association 2010

Be in the know
Subscribe to Hospital Pharmacy Europe newsletter and magazine