When thinking about the difficult symptoms of opioid withdrawal and hearing the news of the FDA approving Lucemyra, a non-opioid prescription medicine to help reduce them, many people who struggle with addiction may be intrigued. It has even been made available in Walgreens across the nation (with a valid prescription), making it uniquely accessible. But is it really the best treatment option we have available?
Spectrum Health Systems’ long-time Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jeffrey Baxter, shared his thoughts on the matter and his response may make you think twice.
It is absolutely essential for patients going through withdrawal to have access to treatment that keeps them comfortable while reducing their likelihood of relapse. It is true that this treatment typically takes the form of medications that contain opioids, including methadone, and buprenorphine. But the negative perception of the practice is unwarranted. These treatments are evidence-based, effective and affordable. You can learn more about them here.
Even though Lucemyra was recently branded and approved for use in the United States, it is a medication that has been used in its inexpensive generic form for decades in Europe. Dr. Baxter cautions that this process of releasing an old medication under a new name with a new approval is a double-edged sword—FDA approval will allow this medication to be recognized as legitimate treatment and covered by insurance in the U.S. But this medication in its renamed form will also be more expensive, even though it is no different than the original formula.
“When medications are branded and released like this, they are often aggressively marketed as some sort of new, innovative treatment that is better than the other treatments we have. But that is not the case here. This medicine is in the same class of medications as clonidine – an inexpensive medication already widely used in withdrawal management programs in the U.S. to help with opioid withdrawal symptoms. There is no benefit to using this expensive name brand alternative that has not been shown in any head-to-head trials to have any advantage over the clonidine we already use.”
Dr. Baxter adds that neither Lycemyra or clonidine is considered the most effective “gold-standard” for treatment. Methadone and buprenorphine, both of which are approved for treating opioid use disorders, are more effective than non-opioid medications. More importantly, short-term “detox” style treatments are almost never effective for moderate to severe opioid addiction.
“Longer-term maintenance style treatment with methadone or buprenorphine is the only form of treatment that reduces overdose deaths by 60-70%,” stated Baxter. Shorter term detox, regardless of the medication used, does not protect someone from relapse or overdose, unless it is specifically used to help initiate longer-term naltrexone treatment.
While Lucemyra is quickly becoming a popular non-opioid option for managing withdrawal symptoms, it is important to consult your physician and/or treatment provider about which evidence-based treatments would be the safest and most effective to help you reach your recovery goals.
If you or a loved one is struggling with drug addiction, call Spectrum Health Systems today at 1-877-MyRehab. If you are a caregiver, friend or family member of someone struggling with addiction, join our free virtual family support meeting series Wednesday evenings.