In a report to federal regulators, the manufacturer of buprenorphine has provided stark evidence that misuse of the drug is growing in parts of the U.S. where it is most widely prescribed as an addiction treatment, says the Baltimore Sun. Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc. outlines problems including a rise in the number of children sickened by accidentally ingesting the pills; an increase in some areas of people taking the drug to get high; and commonplace street sales in some cities for as little as $2 per tablet. If federal officials conclude that abuse of the drug has become a problem, they can seek further controls over its distribution.
The report linked misuse and illicit sales to the federally sanctioned practice of allowing doctors to prescribe large quantities of the drug for patients to take at home. “It was the patients in treatment for opioid abuse – no doubt selling or trading their own supply of buprenorphine – who were seen as major contributors to the street supply,” the report said. Federal officials didn’t anticipate such abuses when they spent $26 million to develop the drug and help Reckitt Benckiser bring it to market. Congress considered buprenorphine, sold mainly in the U.S. as Suboxone, the centerpiece of its plan to broaden access to addiction treatment. In a recent series, the Sun reported that while buprenorphine has been shown to be highly effective as an addiction treatment, its misuse is increasing. The newspaper identified patterns of illegal sales as well as several deaths caused by taking the drug in combination with other substances.