HealthDay News — Patients addicted to opioids are more likely to overcome their dependence if they receive a new long-acting implant rather than a daily treatment pill, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The implant, sold under the name Probuphine, is placed in the upper arm of recovering addicts and releases a steady 6-month dose of buprenorphine. For the study, half of the 177 patients received 4 placebo implants and sublingual buprenorphine, while the other half received sublingual placebo and 4 80-mg buprenorphine hydrochloride implants.

The researchers found that 85.7% of the patients with the functioning implant maintained opioid abstinence during the 6-month trial, compared with 71.9% of patients taking oral buprenorphine. The 6-month implant is more expensive, costing about $4,900 — or more than $800 a month, lead researcher Richard Rosenthal, MD, medical director of Mount Sinai Hospital’s Center for Addictive Disorders in New York City, told HealthDay. By comparison, buprenorphine pills cost $130 to $190 a month.

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“Among adults with opioid dependence maintaining abstinence with a stable dose of sublingual buprenorphine, the use of buprenorphine implants compared with continued sublingual buprenorphine did not result in an inferior likelihood of remaining a responder,” the authors write. “However, the study population had an exceptionally high response rate in the control group, and further studies are needed in broader populations to assess the efficacy of buprenorphine implants vs sublingual buprenorphine in other settings.”

The trial was funded by Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Probuphine.


Rosenthal RN, Lofwall MR, Kim S, et al. Effect of Buprenorphine Implants on Illicit Opioid Use Among Abstinent Adults With Opioid Dependence Treated With Sublingual Buprenorphine: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2016;316(3):282-290. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.9382.