After her daughter, Brittany, fell into a 7-year spiral with heroin use, Katie Donovan left her career to begin a new one as a family recovery coach, hoping to help others navigate the physical, emotional and financial devastation of addiction. But the path to asking for help is its own tremendous battle. With her blog, A Mother’s Addiction Journey, Donovan wants to complete that puzzle and fight the deadly consequences of an us vs. them mentality.

Not my problem

“It's the shamed disease,” Donovan says. “There is such a stigma surrounding it that people don't want to reach out for help. I wanted to start sharing about how this can happen not only to my family, it can happen to anyone.”

Dr. Genie Bailey, M.D., DABAM, is an associate clinical professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University. “Stigma allows us to separate us from them,” she notes. “It's always easier to say they aren't making good choices, they brought this on themselves. It's really important that the public understands that opioid use disorder (OUD) is a real disease and that it crosses all socioeconomic, race and gender lines. It’s not just a disease of morally unstable or weak individuals.”

Yet as the population at large struggles to address these issues of awareness and bias, the medical research community is working to develop innovative solutions. “The message people need to hear,” says Dr. Bailey, “is that we do have treatment, and it works. With opiate addiction, we know that if we can keep the individual in treatment, they're much more likely to be alive.”

Because weekly and monthly injectables can be administered by a medical professional as soon as a patient decides to seek treatment, they may offer an alternative to oral therapy.

A holistic approach

The medical community largely agrees that the path to recovery lies in medication assisted treatment (MAT), a “whole patient” approach — as termed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse — that involves both medicine and behavioral health intervention.

Braeburn Pharmaceuticals has received a fast track designation and priority review status from the FDA for CAM2038, a buprenorphine injection in both weekly and monthly forms. “By bringing long-acting injectables to the market and to these patients who so desperately need them, we're giving physicians the tools they need to address this multi-faceted epidemic,” says Braeburn’s president and CEO, Mike Derkacz. “They don't have to spend a lot of time scaring patients into taking their medicine on a daily basis. Instead, they can focus on their patients’ recovery process, including both treatment and psychosocial counseling which will make a real difference in these patients' lives.”

A range of benefits

“When someone reaches out for help, that window of opportunity is so small; we need to grab it,” says Donovan. Because weekly and monthly injectables can be administered by a medical professional as soon as a patient decides to seek treatment, they may offer an alternative to oral therapy.

“When they become frustrated that they can't get treatment, it's just easier to use again,” Donovan adds, noting that there are many barriers to treatment for those with OUD. Often the individual can’t go away to a detox facility, due to cost of private facilities, lack of open beds in public ones or the inability to leave a family member or pet in their care.

The tragic nature of the disease also makes it so, even if a person wants treatment, they “are often pulled back into wanting to be back in a state where they're altered by the drug. They're compelled to do that and have cravings for that,” explains Dr. Bailey.

Taking a weekly or monthly injectable in the controlled environment of a doctor’s office may lessen the risk of abuse associated with oral alternatives, including patients selling or sharing medicine. “Injectables will help us expedite the treatment of OUD,” Dr. Bailey concludes, “because it takes away the choice for the individual. They don't have to make an active choice every day to take something that's going to protect them and their recovery.”