Two U.S. senators are calling for action to reduce misuse of buprenorphine, a narcotic that federal officials are promoting for treatment of tens of thousands addicted to heroin and pain pills, the Baltimore Sun reports. In Maryland, two key lawmakers will question health officials about abuse of the drug and state spending on it when the General Assembly convenes next month. The comments come after articles this week in the Sun reporting that while many experts champion buprenorphine as a highly effective addiction medicine, the drug is starting to cause some of the kinds of problems that it was created to solve.
Authorities say that some patients illegally sell the orange, hexagonal pills of Suboxone after receiving them by prescription. Longtime heroin addicts and youthful buyers in suburban and rural areas are using the drug to get high and to tide them over when they can’t find heroin or other opiates. Some snort or inject Suboxone. The problem is growing in New England, where the drug is most extensively prescribed. Police in Worcester, Ma., said bupe is becoming a popular street commodity. “This is a disturbing report, and we need to review it and get some answers,” said Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-VT),said officials there “must make sure that there is better evaluation and monitoring of patients.” Suboxone is the centerpiece of a government effort to shift opiate addiction treatment away from restrictive clinics to private doctors’ offices. The federal government spent at least $26 million to help develop buprenorphine in partnership with Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc., a Richmond, Va.-based subsidiary of a British company.