U.S. prisons are experimenting with a high-priced monthly injection that could help addicted inmates stay off opioids after they are released, the Associated Press reports. Skeptics question its effectiveness and say the manufacturer has aggressively marketed an unproved drug to corrections officials. A single shot of Vivitrol, given in the buttocks, lasts for four weeks and eliminates the need for the daily doses common with alternatives such as methadone. Each shot costs as much as $1,000. Because the drug has a limited track record, experts do not agree on how well it works.
Proponents say Vivitrol could save money compared with the cost of locking up a drug offender, about $25,000 a year for each inmate at Illinois’ Sheridan Correctional Center. Dr. Joshua Lee of New York University’s medical school said more evidence is needed to determine whether the medication can help substantial numbers of people and whether it’s worth paying for. “It sounds good, and for some of us, it feels like the right thing to do,” said Lee, a leading researcher on the treatment. Vivitrol is emerging as the nation searches for ways to ease an opioid epidemic that affects more than 2 million Americans and an estimated 15 percent of the U.S. prison population. Many experts view prisons as a natural place to discover what works.