Feds seek ways to expand use of addiction drug

Jun 18, 2014 1:48 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) - The government's top drug abuse experts are struggling to find ways to expand use of a medicine widely-considered the best therapy for treating heroin and painkiller addiction, but which remains underused.

Senator Carl Levin of Michigan on Wednesday pressed officials from the White House, the National Institute of Drug Abuse and other agencies to increase access to the buprenorphine, a drug which helps addicts control drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

First approved in 2002, the medicine was hailed as a major advance over methadone, the decades-old standard treatment for addiction.

Among other advantages, buprenorphine has a lower risk of overdose, milder side effects and can be prescribed as a take-home medication.

But even amid a national epidemic of drug overdoses and addiction, access to the buprenorphine remains limited.

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