Here’s What You Need to Know About the Probuphine Implant

Is this new buprenorphine implant a good option for you?

Probuphine is the very first breakthrough buprenorphine implant. What is buprenorphine, you ask? It’s a common prescription for opioid addiction treatment and it prevents withdrawal symptoms.

The Probuphine implant looks like four matchstick-size rods, which are implanted under the skin of your upper arm. This procedure takes about 15 minutes and is completed in an outpatient setting. The device then releases buprenorphine into your system for six months.

After six months, it is removed through a similar procedure. Once the old one is taken out, your doctor assesses whether or not you should receive another implant.

Important Implant Info

Probuphine is designed to prevent things like opioid cravings and physical withdrawal symptoms. Buprenorphine released by the implant floods the receptors in your brain that typically attract and hold opioids. This simple act helps relieve symptoms like nausea, insomnia, and irritability normally experienced during early opioid withdrawal.

What Are the Pros of Probuphine?

  • With an implant, you don’t have to worry about taking a pill or an injection every day. There’s no risk of forgetting to take your medication. You also can’t lose it and it can’t be stolen.
  • Since the implant disperses the medication evenly throughout your body, it can be very effective in reducing withdrawal symptoms. This also lowers the risk of relapse.
  • Probuphine makes selling buprenorphine on the street more difficult.
  • The implant offers a safe alternative to having medication in your home, where children or pets may accidentally come across it.
  • It removes choice. Once the implant is inserted, it’s with you for six months. The daily decision to take buprenorphine instead of using opioids is removed.
  • This could be a great treatment option for incarcerated patients.

What Are the Cons?

  • As with most medications and procedures, the use of Probuphine includes some health risks. According to the implant’s informational site, “Insertion and removal of Probuphine are associated with the risk of implant migration, protrusion, expulsion, and nerve damage resulting from the procedure. Serious but rare complications including nerve damage and migration resulting in embolism and death may result from improper insertion of drug implants inserted in the upper arm.”
  • Healthcare professionals have expressed concerns that patients who use Probuphine will neglect the rest of their treatment. With a six-month “cure” in their arm, doctors fear patients will skip regular check-ups and counseling that are essential to their recovery.
  • Dr. Jana Burson’s concerns include medical expertise and insurance coverage for the procedure. She asks, “Will general medicine doctor and psychiatrists presently prescribing buprenorphine want to learn this surgical procedure? I don’t know. Doctors who wish to do this procedure must have a DATA 2000 waiver…Unless the regulations are changed, if DATA 2000-waived physicians prefer to let surgeons implant the rods, we still must be physically present with the surgeon during both implantation, and explantation six months later. Will the patient’s insurance pay for the time and expertise of two doctors? I don’t see that happening.”

Should You Take Probuphine?

The implant is officially FDA approved and currently available on the market. But the $64K question is: Is it right for you? That’s an answer that must be determined by evaluating your own health and recovery needs, along with an in-depth conversation with your healthcare provider.

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