As NYC Heroin Trade Surges, a New Push to Treat Opioid Addiction

Drug syringe and cooked heroin on spoon

(DGIwire) – The flood of heroin coming into and out of New York City has surged to the highest levels in more than two decades, according to The New York Times. A recent article noted the amount of heroin seized in investigations involving the city’s special narcotics prosecutor, Bridget G. Brennan, has already surpassed last year’s totals, and is higher than any year going back to 1991. Her office recorded more than 288 pounds of heroin seized in the first four months of 2014—and this figure doesn’t even account for the everyday, street-level drug deals in the city. Roughly 35 percent of heroin seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration nationwide since October was confiscated by agents in New York State; in the past, the state has accounted for about one-fifth of heroin seizures nationwide.

Along with these stark statistics comes a stark realization: addiction to heroin and other opioids is rising quickly as well. Given the increased availability of opioid drugs, more and more individuals are likely to get caught up in a cycle of addiction and despair. Even among the fraction of opioid users who seek treatment, the ultimate goal—a drug-free life—will remain out of reach unless the users find an available treatment that is both effective and convenient to administer.

One company that recognizes the unmet medical needs of substance abuse treatment is BioDelivery Sciences International (BDSI), a specialty pharmaceutical company based in Raleigh, NC that focuses on addiction and pain management. BDSI understands that drug addiction is a complicated medical problem requiring long-term treatment and care, and the company is doing something that could help the more than two million people with opioid dependence manage their addiction and regain control of their lives.

BDSI is developing BUNAVAIL™ (buprenorphine and naloxone buccal film), giving it the opportunity to address the large and rapidly growing opioid dependence market. BUNAVAIL uses BDSI’s advanced drug delivery technology, referred to as BEMA (BioErodible MucoAdhesive). The BEMA technology consists of a small, dissolvable film that is applied to the inner lining of the cheek, rapidly delivering a dose of drug across the mucous membranes. BEMA films adhere to oral mucosa in less than five seconds and completely dissolve. BUNAVAIL is designed to efficiently and conveniently deliver buprenorphine, which helps prevents symptoms of opioid withdrawal and reduces cravings. BUNAVAIL is intended to overcome some of the challenges of other dosage forms that are not well absorbed and need to be kept under the tongue, presenting a challenge for those trying to return to normal daily living. The opioid antagonist naloxone serves as an abuse deterrent.

Mark A. Sirgo, President and CEO of BDSI, says, “The main goals of treating those with opioid addiction include the reduction of abuse and dependence on both illicit drugs and prescription opioids, allowing the improvement of physical and psychological health. Buprenorphine has revolutionized the treatment of opioid addiction for the last dozen years based on its safety and effectiveness, and because physicians can treat patients in the privacy of their offices compared to methadone clinics where daily visits must be made. However, the dosage forms currently available for buprenorphine present challenges to certain patients, because they are difficult to administer and have poor taste—oftentimes contributing to the poor compliance with buprenorphine treatment, with nearly three-quarters of patients discontinuing treatment by six months. We believe the availability of novel, alternative dose forms such as BUNAVAIL might be important in helping patients stay on therapy and ultimately beat their addiction to opioids.”

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