Thursday, July 19, 2012

Suboxone: Our View

I'm seeing and hearing a lot of advertising for here in the Atlanta area.  I don't know if it's a nationwide push or unique to our market, but the ad buy here is significant. 

Of course, the site is sponsored by Reckitt Benckiser, makers of Suboxone - a drug "indicated for maintenance treatment of opioid dependence as part of a complete treatment plan to include counseling and psychological support."  

On the one hand, it's difficult to justify the suggestion that the solution to dependence on pills... is more pills.  Different pills, clearly, but still a pharmacological solution to a pharmacological (and psychological) problem.  Welcome to 21st century medicine.  Also troubling is how often we see Suboxone introduced without the weaning of the other opioid medications.  We see this on cases PRIUM reviews.  Sometimes, the doctor is choosing to prescribe Suboxone for chronic pain management (which represents off-label use, but is the doctor's right to do).  Sometimes, the doctor intends to wean the other medications, but finds the patient unable or unwilling to participate in the weaning process.  Why Suboxone isn't immediately discontinued in this scenario isn't clear, but we see if often enough that PRIUM's physician reviewers are clearly concerned about the appropriate use of this medication. 

On the flip side, we do see cases here at PRIUM where Suboxone is used appropriately and successfully.   And I personally know a few people that have been weaned off of very high dose narcotics successfully through the use of Suboxone.

Bottom line: If you see Suboxone on a claim, make absolutely sure that the physician is DATA 2000 certified and that the drug is being used appropriately.  Close monitoring is key to a successful outcome. 

Back to the web site for moment: is actually a tremendous resource.  Clearly, RB put a lot of time, effort, and study into crafting an easy to navigate, informative, balanced approach to the treatment of opioid dependence.  Candidly, it took me about 10 minutes before I ended up on the Suboxone web site (I thought it would take less than a minute).  The information on the site emphasizes the need for counseling and psychological support and goes to great lengths to discuss all available treatment options.  RB is clearly not going for a direct sell of Suboxone, but rather counting on the fact that if more people seek treatment, some percentage may end up on Suboxone.  There are plenty of other sites you can leverage to get the same information, but I've not found any as well organized or easy to navigate.

Certainly open to recommendations, though...

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