Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), coupled with psychosocial counseling, is widely acknowledged to be the current “gold standard” of care in treating opioid addiction.
Currently, just three drugs exist to treat opioid use disorder: buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. Adherence to the drugs is typically low, and addiction treatment experts have long said MAT is vastly underutilized, calling for expanded access to existing options and the development of more drugs beyond the existing three.
How effective is MAT for addiction? Here’s the science.
On Monday August 6th, the Food and Drug Administration announced a new policy in the way it evaluates drugs to treat opioid addiction that the agency says will give it more flexibility to approve new treatments.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, since his appointment, has been a strong proponent of MAT.
Now, the agency will also consider factors like whether a drug could reduce overdose rates or the transmission of infectious diseases.
“We must consider new ways to gauge success beyond simply whether a patient in recovery has stopped using opioids, such as reducing relapse overdoses and infectious disease transmission,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.
The announcement is the latest in a string of efforts to improve the federal government’s response to the growing opioid crisis, which also includes legislation on Capitol Hill that aims to ensure treatment is evidence-based and, separately, to ensure more federal programs will pay for methadone treatment.
According to STAT News, the topic has also led to some controversy in Washington. The White House recently name-checked a single drug, Vivitrol, a form of naltrexone manufactured by Alkermes, in a strategy document — preferential treatment that addiction experts said could hamstring doctors who should be able to consider all available treatment options.
The Senate is also expected to make MAT a key element of its response to the opioid crisis, but it remains unclear whether it will consider legislation on the opioid crisis prior to November’s midterm elections.