The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved the first generic versions of Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone) sublingual film (applied under the tongue) for the treatment of opioid dependence.
“The FDA is taking new steps to advance the development of improved treatments for opioid use disorder, and to make sure these medicines are accessible to the patients who need them. That includes promoting the development of better drugs, and also facilitating market entry of generic versions of approved drugs to help ensure broader access,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. “The FDA is also taking new steps to address the unfortunate stigma that’s sometimes associated with the use of opioid replacement therapy as a means to successfully treat addiction. Patients addicted to opioids who are eventually treated for that addiction, and successfully transition onto medicines like buprenorphine, aren’t swapping one addiction for another, as is sometimes unfortunately said. They’re able to regain control of their lives and end all of the destructive outcomes that come with being addicted to opioids. When coupled with other social, medical and psychological services, medication-assisted treatments are often the most effective approach for opioid dependence.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a comprehensive approach that combines FDA-approved medications (currently methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone) with counseling and other behavioral therapies to treat patients with opioid use disorder (OUD). Regular adherence to MAT with buprenorphine reduces opioid withdrawal symptoms and the desire to use opioids, without causing the cycle of highs and lows associated with opioid misuse or abuse. At proper doses, buprenorphine also decreases the pleasurable effects of other opioids, making continued opioid abuse less attractive. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, patients receiving MAT for treatment of their OUD cut their risk of death from all causes in half.
Improving access to prevention, treatment and recovery services, including the full range of MAT, is a focus of the FDA’s ongoing work to reduce the scope of the opioid crisis and one part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Five-Point Strategy to Combat the Opioid Crisis. The FDA remains committed to addressing the national crisis of opioid addiction on all fronts, with a significant focus on decreasing exposure to opioids and preventing new addiction by taking new steps to encourage more appropriate prescribing; supporting the treatment of those with OUD and promoting the development of improved as well as lower cost forms of MAT; fostering the development of novel pain treatment therapies that may not be as addictive as opioids, and opioids more resistant to abuse and misuse; and taking action against those who contribute to the illegal importation and sale of opioid products. The agency will also continue to evaluate how drugs currently on the market are used, in both medical and illicit settings, and take regulatory action where needed.
One of the ways the FDA is encouraging access and wider use of MAT is through the approval of generic versions of these products. In an effort to promote competition to help reduce drug prices and improve access to safe and effective generic medicines for Americans, the agency is taking a number of new steps as part of its Drug Competition Action Plan. This includes important work to improve the efficiency of the generic drug approval process and address barriers to generic drug development. Generic drugs approved by the FDA have, among other things, the same quality as brand-name drugs. Generic drug manufacturing and packaging sites must meet the same quality standards as those of brand-name drugs.
Adverse events commonly observed with the buprenorphine and naloxone sublingual film are oral hypoesthesia (numbness), glossodynia (burning mouth), oral mucosal erythema (inflammation of oral mucous membrane), headache, nausea, vomiting, hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), constipation, signs and symptoms of withdrawal, insomnia, pain and peripheral edema (accumulation of fluid causing swelling in lower limbs). These products may only be prescribed by Drug Addiction Treatment Act (DATA)-certified prescribers.
Mylan Technologies Inc. and Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories SA received approval to market buprenorphine and naloxone sublingual film in multiple strengths. Buprenorphine and naloxone sublingual film should be used as part of a complete treatment plan that includes counseling and psychosocial support.
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines, and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.