FDA Wants Medically Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction Destigmatized

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FDA Wants Medically Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction Destigmatized

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb spoke to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday, stating that the agency wants to broaden the use of medically assisted treatment for opioid addiction and help end the stigma associated with the approach.

Many in the medical profession have been opposed to the use of medication-assisted therapy, and insurance companies are often reluctant to cover the drugs, although they have no problem covering other prescription opioids such as hydrocodone.

Gottlieb said that people who require medication to stop them from using more harmful, dangerous drugs shouldn’t be stigmatized:

“This attitude reveals a flawed interpretation of science. It stems from a key misunderstanding that many of us have of the difference between a physical dependence and an addiction.”

The FDA is also considering changing the labels of medication-assisted therapies to permit them to be prescribed for any person who overdoses and is revising labels to convey better that some people may need to undergo treatment throughout their life.

The agency has also widened the availability of training for prescribers.

The three common medications used for the treatment of opioid addiction are methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. Methadone mitigates withdrawal symptoms and blocks the euphoric high of other opioids.

Buprenorphine and naltrexone also suppress symptoms and reduce cravings, and both drugs can be very effective at keeping people off deadlier drugs, such as heroin, and the even more potent synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Patients who receive these treatments reduce the their risk of death by half, Gottlieb said last month.

Preliminary data recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that more than 64,000 people in the U.S. lost their lives to an overdose of drugs or alcohol. The majority these were related to prescription painkillers or illicit opioids such as fentanyl.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

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