Baltimore health officials are heralding successes in their effort to combat heroin addiction with a new drug, but say that the novel program faces several obstacles to achieve its objectives, says the Baltimore Sun. Health commissioner Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein gave a progress report on the Baltimore Buprenorphine Initiative, which has spent more than $900,000 since October to shepherd heroin addicts into drug treatment, find them health insurance, and match them with personal physicians.
Congress approved buprenorphine five years ago for treating opiate addiction. Patients obtain prescriptions from primary care doctors and take their medicine in the privacy of their homes. It is a major shift from heroin’s traditional treatment with methadone, which requires most patients to line up at public clinics for their daily doses. Of the 269 addicts who entered the program before April 1, 65 percent have remained in drug treatment for at least 90 days. That nearly meets “the initial benchmark of 67 percent retention at 90 days,” the report says. Methadone treatment centers typically see 90-day retention rates of 80 percent to 90 percent.