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MAT Drug Makers Spending Millions Lobbying Congress for Opioid Laws

 MAT Drug Makers Spending Millions Lobbying Congress for Opioid Laws

In efforts to combat the ongoing opioid crisis in America, the US House of Representatives is currently working to push through dozens of bills that many believe could help curb the rising overdose death rates and give the country a fighting chance. However, some have pointed out that Big Pharma MAT drug makers are spending millions lobbying Congress, and those same companies stand to bank big money off these new laws.

So, while we want to believe that new laws supporting Medication Assisted Treatment or “MAT” could help with harm reduction efforts, it is also good to point out that the drug companies who are positioned to benefit substantially are also those who have been racking up a lot of influence in Washington through huge donations.

In just a two week period, the House has already cleared several measures that would soon launch these MAT drug manufacturers into a sales spike.

Top MAT Drug Makers Lobbying Congress

So how much are these Big Pharma companies spending?

  1. Alkermes

This biopharmaceutical company focusing mainly on central nervous system disease has already spent $1 million in lobbying. Part of that money went to support a bill that would fund full-service centers where people can:

This MAT drug maker is poised to cash in on this law because it could bolster the sales of anti-addiction injection Vivitrol. This is currently Alkermes best-selling product. However, the need for patients to fully detox before taking the drug is a limitation.

The aggressive marketing tactics this company is using, on top of their big budget for trying to influence Washington is already gaining them some attention. One thing that draws some of that attention is that the main focus of Alkermes lobbying was the bill presented by Representatives Brett Guthrie and Gene Green. Coincidentally, one of Alkermes main lobbyists served as Guthrie’s chief of staff, and another was Green’s former legislative director. Yet another example of people working in Congress making a jump to rallying government officials behind drug companies.

Guthrie and Green both reject any implication that they drafted the bill to support Alkermes. It is true that by several MAT drug makers also support their proposal.

  1. Indivior

This UK based specialty pharmaceutical company spent $180,000 on lobbying Congress. Indivior’s money went to support a bill easing restrictions on certain controlled substances used in injectable anti-opioid treatments.

Indivior rivals Vivitrol with their own product, Sublocade. This anti-addiction treatment is a once-a-month injection to fight opioid cravings. The bill they are bidding for would make it much easier for doctors to buy Sublocade for addiction treatment.

Sublocade was approved back in 2017 as an extended release buprenorphine compound. It became the first once-monthly injectable buprenorphine formulation for treating opioid use disorder (OUD).

  1. Braeburn Pharmaceuticals

Braburn Pharmaceuticals is an MAT drug maker from Pennsylvania that dropped a cool $100,000 along with Indivior to support the same bill for easing restrictions on controlled substances.

Braeburn is also developing a competing injectable MAT drug. But back in January, the FDA sent a complete response letter to the company. In the letter the FDA requests more data to be compiled for the therapy. The product was previously recommended for approval by the FDA’s Psychopharmacologic Drugs Advisory Committee in November 2017.

As of May 2018, Braeburn announced Phase 3 of testing on CAM2038- the buprenorphine weekly and monthly injectable- had some positive developments. The results we published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine.

If this MAT drug does get approval, it will be the first and only injectable opioid use treatment that healthcare professionals can administer from Day 1 of patient’s treatment.

But let us not forget that each of these injectable MAT drug treatments says they should only be a part of a complete treatment program that includes counseling and psychological support.

  1. Big Pharma Supergroup

That may not be the actual name, but it is essentially what we are talking about. A group of non-opioid pain relief drug makers has also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying. This Big Pharma “supergroup” aims to push for legislation that will allow for additional Medicare payment for non-opioid pain drugs. One such drug company is Heron Therapeutics out of California.

Heron alone spent $40,000 from January to March lobbying on the issue of setting rates for post-surgical non-opioid drugs.

Pros and Cons

None of this is to say the MAT drug makers should not support more options for addiction treatment. There should always be support for establishing more comprehensive and inclusive treatment opportunities. In the midst of one of the most devastating drug epidemics in American history, every little bit counts. MAT programs and harm reduction can save a life and give someone an opportunity to get treatment.

But we should also be aware of how much money any drug maker is pouring into the political system in hopes of greasing the wheels of the legislative branch. When the opioid crisis became a major campaign issue, Congress used February’s budget deal to authorize $6 billion in spending to address the epidemic. That is what suddenly inspired over 300 drug companies and interest groups to rush to Capitol Hill and lobby.

Overall, the House package is something that many anti-addiction advocates and other lawmakers see as only minor progress toward addressing such a massive public health crisis. Most agree that it is important to take what steps you can. Still, many agree these efforts fall far too short of what is truly necessary in order to make an impact.

These proposals can be a good step in the right direction. MAT drug programs can be useful in giving people a chance at getting off illicit drugs. However, MAT is only one element to treatment. It is not a sustainable substitute. Hopefully, more energy and funding in the future will help create detox and treatment expansion programs. Then more people can get the help they need instead of depending on drug companies to provide them with a temporary solution to such a complex issue.

Palm Partners Recovery Center believes in providing personalized and holistic treatment options. That is why we also offer MAT programs for those in need. Recovery is never one-size-fits-all, and we strive to help each individual find the recovery plan that is right for them. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.

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FDA Reviews New Suboxone Implant Drug

FDA Reviews New Suboxone Implant Drug

Author: Justin Mckibben

For a long time now Suboxone has been frequently utilized as a method to treat opiate addiction, even though the drug itself comes with some less-than-desirable side-effects. Many doctors have doled out prescriptions for Suboxone over the years to help treat people suffering overcome their physical withdrawals from prescription narcotic opiates like OxyContin, and under some circumstances it has proven to be a helpful resource.

Suboxone is a medication made from one of the two forms of the medication buprenorphine, which is an opiate agonist that was originally developed to treat pain problems. Suboxone works by binding to the opiate receptors in the brain, which is the same exact receptor that morphine, heroin and other opiates bind to.

Now there is a new drug similar to Suboxone in the form of an implant produced by a separate pharmaceutical company hoping to help fight against opiate addiction. So what is this new maintenance drug and how does it work?

The Power in Probuphine Implants

Subxone was being sold exclusively by a British-based pharmaceutical company called Reckitt-Benckiser until its patent ran out in 2012. In the past few years several pharmaceutical companies have swiftly swooped in to get a foot in the growing market of treating opioid addiction.

Braeburn Pharmaceuticals and Titan Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: TTNP) are now joining forces in this influx of Big Pharma powerhouses trying to make their mark in addiction treatment, and they just jointly announced the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Advisory Committee will be reviewing its new drug, Probuphine, on January 12, 2016.

Probuphine is an implant very difference from the tablets and paper strips of Suboxone. Probuphone is actually distributed to the body via tiny rods about the size of a matchstick. These rods are implanted under the skin in the upper arm and give patients a steady dose of buprenorphine for up to 6 months.

This may sound pretty similar to the Vivitrol shot– an injection given every 4 weeks with a monthly doctor visit, and time released for longer lasting relief. Vivitrol is another name given to the generic drug Naltrexone that is often used in the treatment of drug addiction as an opioid antagonist. Vivtrol acts by blocking the opiate receptors so that (in theory) the user cannot feel the effects of any opiates they use.

Vivitrol has also been met with a lot of criticism as an ineffective method of treatment. Some stand by its usefulness, but still others consider it a fruitless endeavor.

Probuphine is intended to promote patient compliance as compared to oral formulations of buprenorphine sold under the brand name Suboxone, which is quite frequently abused as well. Suboxone is supposed to be used as a way to taper off opiates, however prolonged use often leads to a whole new addiction entirely.

It seems makers of Probuphine hope to alleviate this issue by changing how the drug is administered in order to better regulate the results.

Braeburn Teams with Titan

This was not Probuphine’s first go at it. In April of 2013 the FDA told Titan Pharmaceuticals to conduct more research, which came as a surprise when the agency denied approval of the implant after the FDA advisory committee had already voted 10 to 4 a month earlier in favor of Probuphine.

At that time, the FDA staff questioned the effectiveness of the implant and suggested the dose was too low. As a reason the FDA staff cited that during clinical trials about half of the patients treated with Probuphine required additional doses of Suboxone to address withdrawal symptoms. So Titan and Braeburn teamed up to do their homework and present the data necessary to get the approval. According to Braeburn Pharmaceuticals President and CEO Behshad Sheldon:

“The data from the final phase 3 trial, which was designed in collaboration with the FDA in response to questions raised in the complete response letter, is compelling and we look forward to presenting it on January 12,”

“More long-term treatments are needed to help people stay in recovery, and we remain excited about the potential for Probuphine to be the first of many new options for people with opioid addiction.”

Titan Pharmaceuticals President Sunil Bhonsle stated:

“The Braeburn team has been interacting closely with the FDA, and we continue to support them as the Probuphine New Drug Application (NDA) advances. We look forward to a successful meeting.”

The companies hope to enter the opiate addiction treatment market soon. So will this be another Vivtrol medication that is celebrated by some and criticized by others? Some a Suboxone implant stand to be a more effective method of administration, or does it increase the risks of side-effects?

Either way you can’t fault these companies for wanted to get in on the opiate addiction treatment medication market, which racked up $1.75 billion in sales in the U.S. just last year. But will this kind of medication make a difference, and will it be in a good way? Beyond medication maintenance, real recovery comes with real treatment and a real solution, and at Palm Partners there are amazing people waiting to help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

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