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by Amanda Conschafter, blog editor

Abuse-deterrent formulations mark a valuable step toward curbing prescription pain pill abuse, suggests a new Institute for Patient Access policy brief. As “Abuse-Deterrent Opioid Formulations: Promising Technology, Unique Challenges,” explains, these formulations make opioid pain pills harder to crush or dissolve. Snorting or injecting these medications for recreational use thereby becomes more difficult – if not impossible. Authors David Charles, M.D. and Mary Ann Chapman, Ph.D. argue that these properties may effectively limit abuse for certain patient populations.

Abuse-Deterrent Opioid Formulations” delineates abuse-deterrence designs, such as physical barriers and aversion, whereby the pill produces unpleasant side effects when crushed. The brief also lays out the four levels of label claims that abuse-deterrent pain medications can make. These range from Level 1, acknowledging a physical or chemical barrier to abuse, to Level 4, asserting demonstrated abuse reduction.

As the policy brief explains, “Physicians recognize that these formulations may have significant potential for certain patients, such as:

– Those who have struggled with addiction or substance abuse in the past

– Those who live with others who are current or recovering addicts

– Those who live with teens or young adults who may seek opioids for recreational use.”

Even as abuse-deterrent formulations help address prescription pain pill abuse, they also raise questions about policy. Can pharmacists substitute a traditional formulation in lieu of the abuse-deterrent pill? Should patients not at risk for abuse pay the higher price for abuse-deterrent formulations?

Drs. Charles and Chapman argue that cost parity should exist so that patients who benefit from abuse-deterrent formulations aren’t punished by higher prices. They also state that pharmacy substitution policy must prioritize the physician-patient relationship.

Questions of abuse-deterrent formulations’ use and usefulness gain importance as more formulations enter the market. Earlier this month the Food and Drug Administration approved an opioid pain pill with abuse-deterrent properties. Several weeks prior, the FDA held hearings that reiterated its commitment to abuse-deterrent technology as a tactic against prescription drug abuse.

Read “Abuse-Deterrent Opioid Formulations: Promising Technology, Unique Challenges” to learn more.

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