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?
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.
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).
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.
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.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
It is not secret that America is struggling with a drug problem. Overdose rates are ever increasing, the death toll reaches new heights and the world is watching to see how politicians and communities plan to address these mounting issues. The opiate epidemic far too obvious for too many people, and there is a great need for new policies and new ideas for innovating treatment. Now, a small crew has created a mobile drug treatment van to take recovery on the road and provide resources to those suffering.
Maine’s New Mobile Drug Treatment Van
Two Mainers, who are themselves recovering heroin addicts, are setting out on a mission to try and heal communities will education and treatment options. The mobile drug treatment van will travel throughout the city of Sanford, Maine to bring harm reduction services and offer recovery options to the areas most impacted by opioid abuse. The mobile drug treatment vehicle is equipped to offer:
- Clean syringes
- Clean needles
- Testing for HIV and other diseases
- Connecting addicts to treatment options
The new mobile drug treatment is a prevention-based project from the non-profit Choopers Foundation. The Choopers Foundation is a local effort that serves to educate the public on addiction and the need for drug policy reform. According to its website, the foundation’s projects also include:
The two men taking this road trip for recovery are the Choopers Foundation co-founders, Tim Cheney and Adrian Hooper. Given the fact they are both in long-term recovery, they work from an experience many may not understand. Adrian Hooper recently told the Associated Press,
“We reach out to people, treat them with dignity and say we’re here for you to create treatment plans if you ever want to,”
The effort to make a difference in Maine makes plenty of sense.
Other Mobile Drug Treatment Efforts
This isn’t the only case of a mobile drug treatment idea hitting the streets to try and save lives. A similar initiative in rural areas of western Pennsylvania has been delivering monthly injections of Vivitrol. Vivitrol is a medication that blocks the effects of opioid drugs.
This program, the PRS mobile drug treatment clinic, is operated by a private clinic in Washington County. It was put in place to ensure that people living in remote areas are following up on the treatment options provided through this private clinic. The PRS mobile drug treatment is operated from a trailer hitched to a Ford pickup truck.
The mobile drug treatment resource set out to expand its access to people across several counties, giving services to unfunded patients.
Could Mobile Drug Treatment Work?
Having a resource like this is pretty unique. Providing intervention and harm reduction on-the-go could bring much needed opportunities to people who otherwise might not know they exist. Some people are even afraid to ask for help, so maybe making help come to them could work.
Daniel Raymond of the Harm Reduction Coalition says this type of mobile drug treatment program is able to intervene early, before the individual ends up in the hospital or even dead. Creating a traveling resource that can go into different communities may bring more people into the fold who have barely survived on the fringes. Instead of requiring people to find and seek out clean needles, HIV testing or addiction rehabilitation, the mobile drug treatment option can drive a second chance to your neighborhood and park it right outside your door.
Mobile drug treatment might actually carry the message of recovery to new places. Let us hope that it can pick up some hitchhikers and save some lives along the way.
Getting help to those who need it isn’t always easy, but there is real help available. Real recovery begins with effective and innovative treatment. Palm Partners offers holistic treatment program where you create comprehensive and personalized recovery plan. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Vivtrol has been called a miracle drug, a shot in the dark, and a waste of money. What more can we say about this presumed ‘heroin vaccine’ that some people resort to in desperation?
Vivitrol is another name given to the generic drug Naltrexone that is often used in the treatment of drug addiction as an opioid antagonist. Naltrexone was originally approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of alcohol dependence in 1994, and later became approved for the treatment of opioid dependence. While some seem to stand by its usefulness, some still speculate that it is not in itself a solution, and still others claim it is nothing but a temporary fix to a bigger problem.
The medications primary use from treating addiction appears to be blocking the opiate receptors in the brain, so that someone using heroin or other opiate based drugs cannot get high. The idea is that if an addict stays on the Vivitrol regiment then they will be able to avoid the desire to use, and even if they do it won’t work, to further negate their cravings.
Naltrexone was developed to be able to help patients overcome opioid addiction by blocking the drugs’ euphoric effects, but while it was designed to further help by overcoming the cravings for opiates, Naltrexone and Vivitrol have been refuted by many for having little to no effect on opioid cravings at all.
The Vivitrol shot is made by Boston-based biotech Alkermes, and the way it was estimated to best overcome the hurdles of previous methods of Naltexone medication was that instead of being a pill taken once a day like the original medication, which would be easy to ‘forget’ or ‘lose’, Vivitrol is an injection given every 4 weeks with a monthly doctor visit, and time released for longer lasting relief.
Vivitrol is injected into a muscle and can be given only by a doctor or nurse in a clinic, so the medication isn’t openly available for abuse. Most people using this course of treatment are warned that it is important to receive injections regularly to get the most benefit.
Common side-effects include:
- Nausea for a few days after an injection
- Mild stomach pain
- Muscle or joint aches
- Cold symptoms
- Stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Depressed mood
- Sleep problems (insomnia)
- Dry mouth
This drug also has the potential to be very dangerous to those with liver problems. Vivitrol is warned to have the ability to cause hepatitis, and it can even cause rapid withdrawals if the individual hasn’t waited at least 7-10 after stopping the use of opiates to get the shot.
Vivitrol has shown some promise in the past. In a 6 month clinical trial study there were 401 individuals on Vivitrol who completed the trial, and 17% to 25% showed a greater decrease in drinking days than those on a placebo, but only 38 of the 401 were abstinent. So if fewer than 10% of those who got the benefit from the shot achieved abstinence the drug appears to be at best successful for trying to promote ‘controlled drinking’ but NOT abstinence.
Any medications have draw-backs, and first let’s talk about the price-tag. According to some reports the Vivitrol shot also costs about $800 to $1,200 dollars! A big upcharge from the original $11 a month the Naltexone pill was going for. The up-side to that is that the number of health care insurance providers helping pay that bill is increasing, so there is more support than ever. Still the medication’s cost can present an issue for a lot of addicts.
A 2011 review of studies suggested that Naltrexone was not significantly superior to placebo (medicine prescribed for the psychological benefit to the patient, deceiving patient into thinking they’re receiving medication) or to no pharmacological intervention. Naltrexone was also determined not to be superior to benzodiazepine or buprenorphine for treating an alcohol or opiate addiction.
Over-all the poor quality of the reviewed studies forced the authors of the review to determine that there was insufficient evidence to support Naltrexone therapy for opioid dependence.
Voicing Opinions of Vivitrol
I wrote this blog after hearing 2 conflicting opinions on this kind of opiate addiction treatment. One person actually reached out to me after reading a article I wrote about the heroin epidemic’s current death toll, and she went on saying,
“I’ve been on it [Vivitrol] for 8 months now and it seriously saved my life”
During a later conversation she expressed that she felt it was a better treatment experience for her than suboxone, and that she had no withdraws while taking it. It is great to see that kind of confidence from an old friend in early recovery, and I’m so glad to see someone doing something that has changed their quality of life.
Some people seem to benefit from this kind of medication maintenance, and in some reports it has shown that through study periods it has been effective, but what about when that study period is over? Do you have to take the shot forever?
A close friend of mine we shall call ‘Spade’ stated that he had a very unsuccessful experience with Vivitrol, and that while it may work for some people, a ‘real deal’ addict or alcoholic can’t rely on it. When I asked him what it was like, the first thing he said was one word,
“SUCKED” followed by, “Didn’t work.”
After talking about it he concluded that for him it was a complete waste of a lot of money, because he craved heroin and kept trying to get high anyway. Both people I interviewed actually said that some people who use Vivitrol will keep using heroin and other opiates, and because they don’t feel the effect they will actually use until they overdose. The website for the medication even warns you may be sensitive to lower amounts of opiates than you were using previous to the treatment!
“I ended up spending twice the money, because I was buying the shot and then buying heroin anyway. And I kept using more and more trying to get high. I knew people who overdosed because they kept trying to get high. It’s not a solution.”
Spade recounted incidences where he knew people who used the shot for months and it worked, but when they stopped taking the shot and there was no other solution in their life, they would relapse. He said while the shot may help some people get their start, it is not a reliable recovery plan.
My opinion- for a ‘real deal’ alcoholic/addict like me or Spade it’s a Band-Aid on a bullet-hole. Don’t get me wrong, my opinion isn’t a doctors opinion, and whatever works for people is awesome and I am grateful they have a resource. It helps people, and that is good enough for me. We all have to chose our own path. But in my mind addiction is not just a physical problem with a miracle medicine solution. As I understand it, it’s a mental obsession or even a spiritual disease, and in my experience it takes a program of action for a fulfilled life in recovery.
There are all kinds of strategies for recovery out there, and everyone has to walk their own path. Examples of any maintenance medications being a successful factor in lasting recovery are typically accompanied with some form of behavioral therapy and/or drug treatment program, and an aftercare program. There is no miracle cure for addiction yet, but there is real treatment with real solutions. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Coffee is the one thing that keeps the world turning, right?! The best part of waking up! With cream and sugar it can be the life-blood of America! Who else traded a sports bar for an espresso bar? But is it as perfect as it seems… well yeah, but maybe not, because coffee is referred to as the most popular psychoactive drug there is because of its effect on the release of dopamine into the brain. Research done on rats has even shown that just by smelling coffee there is a significant difference in the way your brain functions.
So with all the good that comes from coffee, it can still be considered as a mind or mood altering substance, and some people speculate that it should even be considered a relapse?! So where do we draw the line in the sand? IS NOTHING SACRED?! When you walk into your home-group, do you have a coffee commitment or are you a drug dealer?!
The Bad News- Coffee and Controversy
The truth is coffee does in some ways fit the description of a drug. When ingested in excess, caffeine is a powerful stimulant that sometimes causes anxiety and insomnia. Caffeine stimulation goes straight to the central nervous system, and the regular use of caffeine does actually cause mild physical dependence. But caffeine doesn’t threaten your physical, social, or economic health the way addictive narcotic drugs do.
It is probably obvious, but I’m going to drop this mind-bomb on you anyway. When you stop taking caffeine abruptly, you most likely experience symptoms for at least a day or more, especially if you consume two or more cups of coffee a day- BOOM. Symptoms of withdrawal from caffeine include:
- depressed mood
- difficulty concentrating
No doubt, caffeine withdrawal can make for a few bad days. However, caffeine does not cause the severity of withdrawal or harmful drug-seeking behaviors as street drugs or alcohol. I can’t say I could compare any kind of discomfort to that of a cold-turkey opiate withdrawal, especially a morning without coffee. For this reason, most experts don’t consider caffeine dependence a serious addiction.
The Good News- Coffee and Recovery
If you would like an excuse to drink coffee, as if you needed one, then there is also one doctor’s opinion to claim that drinking coffee may actually help the alcoholic with no drinking. Dr. Peter R. Martin, director of Vanderbilt University’s Addiction Center, conducted a 2008 study which found that 88.5% of recovering alcoholics drink coffee regularly, compared to 57% of the general population
Dr. Peter R. Martin does go on to say that it’s not the caffeine alone that should be considered as a factor that can help alcoholics.
“Coffee is much more complex than caffeine. We don’t think it’s the caffeine necessarily that helps people stay sober. Chlorogenic acids, a large number of biologically active compounds in coffee, can act on the opioid receptors in much the same way as Naltrexone,”
Naltrexone is a drug prescribed to those suffering from severe drinking problems to manage their alcohol consumption. It is often marketed under the names Revia, Depade, Relistor and Vivitrol.
“We wonder, based on our findings, whether coffee could actually reduce the rate of relapse for alcoholics in recovery,” says Dr. Martin.
While having the ability to prevent cellular harm that can be caused by stress, a Harvard study showed that drinking 2-4 cups of coffee a day actually decreased the risk of suicide by an astounding 50 percent!
Also, the intake of caffeine has also been noted to have a positive effect on individuals who suffer from depression as well as other mental illness disorders such as anxiety and panic attacks. So ultimately caffeine has been credited to too much of a bad rap in the rooms of recovery. So many people try to lump coffee and energy drinks into the group of mind/mood altering substances, and in the end all it does is stir up controversy.
Coffee with Impunity
In the earliest days some ‘long-timers’ in the rooms of 12 Step fellowships will recall that all you ever needed for a meeting was a few alcoholics and/or addicts and a coffee pot. Whether you were gathered on the porch in the early morning with a mug of black coffee, or you were lounging in a club house sipping flavored espresso drinks, the coffee culture is alive and thrives in the rooms of recovery.
When it really comes down to it, anything can develop into an addiction. It is important that we reiterate over and over again to those who aren’t familiar that the substance is not the real problem, it is the behavior and the devastation left in the wake of someone using something, anything really, to cope. It is important to remember that it is always a fine line between doing something that is a harmless habit and developing a dependence on something outside ourselves so maintain a functional and happy life.
Of course it is Monday while I write this so I was dependent to some extent on coffee to keep my sanity, and I religiously stop at my favorite café and get a double espresso every morning on the way to the office as part of my pattern, but I do so in a manner that does not have a negative impact anywhere else in my life. It does not cause me to break my spiritual principles, and it does not cost as much as my old addiction… well almost, but that’s just because I get extra espresso in everything. Seriously though, coffee is amazing, back off!
In all seriousness coffee may not be an addictive narcotic, but any addict who knows about the disease of addiction knows that we can easily become addicted to just about anything we abuse for a feeling. Recovery from addiction and substance abuse means learning the difference between the real cause of addiction and the substances we abuse. It is not the drugs, or the alcohol, it is our life-style that is killing us. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135