FDA Expands Therapy Options for Opioid Addiction

As part of the ongoing, multi-agency effort to end the opioid epidemic, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to allow pharmaceutical companies to sell medications that relieve physiologic cravings and block the euphoric effects of opioids. The FDA will issue draft guidelines for drug makers on these medication-assisted treatments (MAT).

In remarks to the National Governors Association, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar, JD, expressed support for MATs. Noting that one-third of treatment centers offer this type of treatment, Mr. Azar said, “We want to raise that number – in fact, it will be nigh impossible to turn the tide on this epidemic without doing so.”

The FDA has approved three drugs for opioid treatment – buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. According to The New York Times, the FDA will consider new medications that “help patients function better and can be helpful when used in combination with therapy and other social support, even if on their own the medications don’t completely end addiction.”

Andrew Kolodny, MD, co-director of opioid policy research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, told The New York Times that treatment development isn’t the biggest hurdle to ending the opioid epidemic. “We already have an effective treatment that people aren’t getting access to,” he said. “The primary challenge is getting it to people.”

Source: The New York Times, February 25, 2018.