New opioid medication will replace daily doses with monthly injection (Dr. Seonaid Nolan, BCCSU)

A new form of medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction that replaces daily doses with a monthly injection is expected to be available in Canada this year, and health officials say it could benefit those who struggle with taking medication every day.

Sublocade is the brand name for an injectable form of buprenorphine, the opioid medication that combines with naloxone to form what’s commonly referred to as Suboxone. The opioid replacement therapy reduces cravings and prevents withdrawal symptoms, hopefully moving the patient away from illicit drug use.

Whereas Suboxone – a tablet that dissolves under the tongue – in Canada is usually taken orally Sublocade is a monthly injection administered in the abdomen by a health-care provider. A gel-forming polymer slowly releases the drug over 30 days.

Seonaid Nolan, a clinical researcher with the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU), medical director of the addiction program at Providence Health Care and an addiction medicine physician at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, said the innovation comes not from the drug itself but from its delivery system.

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