Vivitrol, a drug that treats alcohol dependence through a drug-delivery technology by Alkermes, has received FDA approval to also treat addiction to opioids like heroin. The drug blocks areas of the brain that gives users the pleasurable sensations associated heroin and alcohol. But what makes the drug unique is its delivery system.
Alkermes’ proprietary, injectable extended-release technology, called Medisorb, enables sustained releases over long periods of time. Vivitrol is injected only once a month. The company says the technology allows us it to encapsulate small molecules, peptides and proteins in microspheres made of biodegradable polymers with extended-release profiles lasting from days to months.
In clinical trials, patients taking Vivitrol were opioid-free 90 percent of the time, compared with 35 percent on dummy injections.
As we reported at the end of September, though, some doctors already prescribe Vivitrol off-label as a treatment for opioid addiction. So, some experts say, the FDA approval might not result in significant jumps in sales right away.