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Friday, May 16, 2014

Extended Release Naltrexone Cuts Healthcare Costs

Americans are constantly on the lookout for new ways to cut healthcare costs. With the Affordable Care Act, in conjunction with Medicare expansion programs, many Americans who were once considered uninsurable are receiving the care they need. The fight for more affordable healthcare is far from over and a new report has shown that the extended-release drug Naltrexone (Vivitrol) used to treat alcohol and opioid dependence can lead to savings in healthcare costs.

Every year millions of dollars are spent as the result of people with alcohol and opioid dependence needing emergency healthcare (i.e. emergency rooms, detox, and residential treatment). Finding ways to reduce the number of visits to emergency rooms not only saves lives but also saves individuals from costly medical bills. Naltrexone is injected once a month and costs about $1,100 per injection. While the medication is without question expensive, researchers have found that patients who used the drug had generally lower overall costs.

Patients using Naltrexone were in treatment and detox for a shorter period of time than those who chose other forms of treatment, MedicalXpress reports. Patients using extended-release Naltrexone continued the treatment longer than those using the drug acamprosate or oral Naltrexone.

“Historically, oral medications for substance abuse have not often been prescribed or found to have a high degree of success, mostly because patients stopped taking them,” lead author Dan Hartung of Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy, said in a news release. “But there are patients who are committed to treating their problems and data showed that they clearly appear to have success with extended-release Naltrexone, which is administered just once a month.”

More patients can now afford the expensive Naltrexone as the result of the Affordable Care Act, the article points out.

“There has always been some reluctance on the part of health care practitioners, as well as the patients they are treating, to use prescription medication to treat a substance abuse problem,” Hartung said. “Medication-assisted therapy is underutilized.”

The study was published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.
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