Once deemed the “wonder drug” for getting people off heroin, Suboxone is now under fire. What was supposed to be a solution to help people recover from opioid addiction is now being questioned. It was marketed as a treatment drug that would help people get off prescription painkillers and heroin.
Federal prosecutors have now found that Suboxone is prone to abuse. They are now looking to prosecute the British drugmaker Indivior for not giving up the whole story about the drug. Additionally, it’s believed they were encouraging people to overuse it. A federal grand jury in Virginia claims that Indivior had created a scheme that clearly puts profit over the well-being of patients.
“Indivior obtained billions of dollars in revenue from Suboxone Film prescriptions by deceiving health-care providers and health-care benefit programs into believing that Suboxone Film was safer, less divertible, and less abusable than other opioid-addiction treatment drugs,” said the prosecutors.
Fraudulent Marketing of Opioids
Indivior is being charged with felony fraud and conspiracy based on allegedly marketing it incorrectly. The drug was initially thought to solve a problem in the opioid epidemic. Prosecutors are saying the company boosted profits illegally. They did so by creating a system that connected opioid addicts with doctors who over-prescribed Suboxone for their own greater good. You’ve probably heard of pharmaceutical companies being accused of similar acts. They have been accused of dumbing down facts regarding how addictive opioid medications were.
The Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt said that Indivior promoted their product with no regards for the safety of the products. Despite the risks of diversion and abuse that they didn’t reveal to anyone about. The indictment states that Indivior,
“obtained billions of dollars in revenue from Suboxone Film prescriptions by deceiving health care providers and health care benefit programmes into believing that Suboxone Film was safer, less divertible, and less abusable than other opioid-addiction treatment drugs”.
It also stated that Indivior “lacked any scientific evidence to support those claims”.
Increasing Sales of Suboxone
Federal prosecutors believe the firm created a scheme so they could increase sales of their Suboxone Film products. These are an opioid drug to help treat addiction. Indivior has given a rebuttal to contest the charges. They have said they are a world leader in addiction treatment. The Department of Justice is demanding a minimum of $3 billion in fines. Indivior’s market value is currently £202 million since the collapse of their shares.
The company is already seeing the repercussions of the accusations against them. Ther stocks fell to an all-time low (nearly 75%) immediately after U.S. prosecutors made their announcement. The prosecutors claimed that the British drugmaker had deceived doctors on their addiction treatments. They hid the dangers and fueled an already problematic situation, the opioid epidemic. It’s believed that they misled doctors and government health about the safety of the drug compared to other products.
The “Here to Help” Program
Many agencies in the U.S. have been going after makers and distributors of opioid painkillers. Indivior marketed themselves as a solution to the epidemic. There were previous reports about the misuse of Suboxone. This new information shows that something considered to be a solution can be mismanaged and turned into part of the problem.
It is a combination of two different drugs. One of them is an opioid, buprenorphine. Buprenorphine doesn’t show to cause the euphoric effects of other painkillers or heroin. Naloxone is a reversal agent against opioids. The medication satisfies the addiction need for opioids and curbs withdrawal symptoms. It has been abused however and the company did little to stop it.
Their program, “Here to Help” was actually used to increase prescriptions and that’s the problem. The prosecutors state that Indivior used the program to connect patients to ‘crooked’ doctors. How were they crooked? They were found to prescribe Suboxone to more patients than was allowed by federal law. They prescribed high doses and in circumstances that were considered suspect.
What Indivior Has to Say About the Accusations
A representative of Indivior had this to say about the accusations,
“I couldn’t be prouder of the work Indivior does to fight the opioid crisis,” he said in a statement published on the company’s website. “We wish the Justice Department had taken an alternative path, because their indictment simply can’t be justified based on any fair reading of the facts or the law.”
The company says the opposite. They say they never diverted their product intentionally and have always educated doctors on recommended Suboxone treatment.
Indivior is stating the exact opposite of what the Department of Justice is accusing them of. They said they are absolutely not contributing to the opioid epidemic. The FDA and CDC acknowledge this medicine as a way of combating the epidemic. Indivior says that the allegations from the Justice Department are a contraction.
Opioid epidemic and Pharmaceutical Companies
Indivior is not the only company who’s gone under fire for allegedly manipulating public perception about their products. Pharmaceutical companies like Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma, and Teva are all dealing with lawsuits. They played a part in the opioid epidemic with their products. Indivior is a bit of a different story as it’s supposed to be a treatment to aid in the pursuit of ending the opioid epidemic.
More than 200,000 Americans have died of an overdose from prescription opioids. It was the aggressive marketing of opioid painkillers that started the crisis. Despite “wonder drugs” like Suboxone strips, people are still dying every day. Federal agencies are now demanding that the makers and distributors of these medications pay. If federal prosecutors are successful in these lawsuits against big pharma, the money goes towards drug treatment. This would include the ability to get more law enforcement and offer people rehab programs to get them off the drugs.
Dangers of Suboxone
While Indivior marketed their Suboxone strip as a safe way to taper off stronger opioids, there are also dangers with the drug. It’s a challenge to treat people who are addicted to heroin. Sometimes it’s important to turn to medicine for a short term solution. Suboxone was created for this reason. It eases withdrawal with only a mild high. It has a lower potential for addiction but it is still addictive.
While it has been used as a treatment for opioid addiction, it can worsen the situation. Suboxone contains 2 ingredients with one ingredient being a partial opioid agonist. This means it does create an opiate response but just with some of the opiate receptors in the brain. This is why it’s a milder high than prescription painkillers. The other ingredient is naloxone which is an opioid antagonist. It turns off the opiate receptors in the brain and has been instrumental in saving lives during an opioid overdose. It immediately counteracts the effects of opioids through injection. In a pill form, it prevents a reaction to opioids. The combination of the two has been found to help those with opioid addictions.
Addiction to Suboxone
The high expectation of Suboxone and what it could do for addicts have turned to disappointment. There isn’t a reduction in opioid addiction and Suboxone is adding to the problem. Indivior may have been partially responsible for that if the allegations are true. The National Pain Report states that buprenorphine is one of the most abused prescription drugs throughout the world currently.
The report stated that people looking to keep up their addiction use Suboxone to ease their symptoms in between times they’re not abusing other opioids. It eases things for the addict and makes the breaks easier. It’s not making them want to stop for the long term. If someone wants to get high, they may take more than recommended. The naloxone isn’t a deterrent for abusing Suboxone as it works differently when ingested.
Signs of Suboxone Abuse or Addiction
There are certain behaviors that are found in addicts. They can indicate abuse and addiction. Here are some of those signs:
- There are pills missing from a bottle when based on the prescribed amount.
- Prescriptions are stolen.
- The person will be secretive and lie about medications.
- They are sleepy and have a hard time concentrating.
- There is an indication of doctor shopping. Many different prescriptions from different doctors and pharmacies.
These following signs indicate addiction. Doctors will see these as a sign of substance abuse and addiction.
- Inability to stop or control substance use.
- Consume more substance than planned.
- Cravings and spending time using or trying to get Suboxone.
- Relationship problems.
- Inability to manage daily responsibilities.
- The person will keep using even if their health is in jeopardy.
While Indivior saw growth in sales, people were dying from buprenorphine. The Center for Substance Abuse Research reported that Suboxone sales in 2012 were $1.4 billion. This is over 10 times what it made in 2006. In Florida, there were 27 deaths from buprenorphine. Keep in mind that doctors and medical examiners won’t test for buprenorphine so it’s believed that more people are dying from it than is reported. This is also true when it comes to details on Suboxone and how it’s being abused.
Suboxone Side Effects
It is the buprenorphine that comes with side effects in Suboxone. There are the most common side effects of taking the drug:
- Symptoms of the flu such as nausea, fever, chills, body aches.
- Stuffy/runny nose.
- Muscle pain, primarily in the back.
- Inability to sleep.
- It hurts to urinate.
- Extreme fatigue.
- Blurry vision.
Long-term Effects of Suboxone Addiction
It’s important to remember that Suboxone is an opioid. It causes similar issues that other opiates do. This includes:
- Inability to sleep.
- A feeling of restlessness.
- Heart damage.
- Respiratory damage.
- Potential brain damage (hypoxia).
When using any opioid for a long period of time, there is a risk of tolerance. This means that you’ll have to take more of the drug as time goes on. This increases the chance of addiction.
Suboxone Withdrawal Symptoms
Another side effect of Suboxone (the buprenorphine) is the withdrawal symptoms. If you’ve been taking the medication for a long time, you can go through withdrawal. This is going to be similar to other opiates. Buprenorphine interacts with your mind and body and affects chemical processes in the brain. When you stop using it, the body will feel the absence of the drug. How severe these withdrawal signs depend on how long you’ve been using and how often.
If you’ve gone from heroin addiction to Suboxone as a way of tapering, you’re dealing with the effects of opioids in your system for a long period. While your withdrawal symptoms will be less than when you abused stronger opioids, it may have been years since your body was truly clean.
The common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Stomach pain.
- Inability to sleep.
- Mood swings.
- Cold chills or sweating.
If you suffer from depression, it’s likely that will be a part of the symptoms too. Any underlying mental disorders will flare up. Withdrawal can be overwhelming physically and emotionally. This can cause a relapse.
The Dangers of Using Suboxone
The intention of Suboxone is a good one. It can be a good resource to help people from their stronger opioid addiction. There are advantages and disadvantages to it of course. There are some subtle side effects but usually, it’s okay to use as a recovery tool for a relatively long time. When using Suboxone, it’s often important to taper from the drug. This is when you start taking less of the medication over time. This would be instead of going ‘cold turkey’ and shocking the body.
Suboxone is a medication-assisted treatment. It is not a cure for addiction. There are many other things that surround addiction recovery. There is a whole system put in place for getting off opioids. It will start with detox but there also needs to be management of the psychological reasons for your addiction.
This, of course, should all be brought up with you by your doctor. There is a risk of dependence and without the other therapies, you’ll just stay in the wheel of using various kinds of opioids. This is another issue. As easily as you use Suboxone, you might switch to Oxycodone or heroin. Addiction causes risky behaviors.
Suboxone – A Solution or a Cause?
Suboxone isn’t usually the gateway drug for opioid addiction. It doesn’t make any sense. Buprenorphine has a ceiling effect so it can only get you so high. Naloxone blocks a lot of the effects anyway. However, when someone has grown too dependent on opioids and they mismanage their Suboxone prescription, it can become problematic.
While Suboxone was supposed to be a solution, it has caused people to maintain their opioid addiction. As a legitimate product, it is supposed to be an aid during the detox phase where withdrawal from stronger opioids is too much to handle. Doctors may knowingly give the prescription out for longer. Indivior’s problem right now is they’re being accused of seeking out doctors who intentionally give out higher doses for a long period of times. This is believed to promote Suboxone dependency and can lead to addiction.
Suboxone and the Opioid Epidemic
Indivior is suspected of intentionally connecting ‘crooked’ doctors with patients. Suboxone could be a good option to help people get off opioids. The formula looks good on paper. It is less harmful than other opioids. The problem is the manipulation that is putting people in jeopardy of dependence and eventually addiction. It’s being marketed as one thing while being managed differently. What should have been a solution is now becoming another part of the problem in the opioid epidemic.
Indivior is denying their role in the epidemic and they haven’t been convicted of the crime as of yet. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a pharmaceutical company manipulated its marketing tactics to get more sales for their prescription drugs. If you’re using a medically-assisted medication, it should always include professional addiction treatment. This allows you to understand the nature of your addiction and digs into the reasons you abused drugs. Without it, you could end up a victim when given Suboxone and told it’s the answer to all your problems. It can work but it needs to be a part of a bigger treatment plan.
Addiction Help for Suboxone
So when we talk about other treatments for opioid addiction, what does this include? You could be taking Suboxone while you go through addiction rehab. This will allow you to focus while you go through essential addiction therapy. You will learn how to manage emotional triggers so you can avoid relapse. Going through behavioral therapy or talk therapy can help you come to terms with things that have happened in your life. For whatever reason, something lead you to addiction. You may not even know what it is. If this is the case, addiction rehab can help you find those answers.
At Northpoint Washington, we have all the available tools to help you with addiction. We safely help you with detox and integrate you into our rehab program. It is a full spectrum treatment plan that focuses on all aspects of addiction. Medication to help you get off drugs is important but there are many other tools to help you. We are experienced specialists that have helped thousands of opioid addicts recover and experience a more positive life. When you’re ready to get the help you need, contact us. We will help you begin your recovery journey.