July 26, 2006

Frequent counseling not needed for opium addicts: study

By Gene Emery

BOSTON (Reuters) - The drug Suboxone may help opium addicts
kick their habit, but it makes little difference whether taken
once or three times a week or whether patients also receive
intensive counseling, a new study shows.

About 40 percent of 166 volunteers passed their urine tests
in a 24-week study, regardless of which combination of
counseling and Suboxone therapy they received.

Without the drug, only about 5 percent would probably have
had a clean urine sample, said study leader David Fiellin in
the report in this week's New England Journal of Medicine.

The findings suggest that aggressive counseling may be
unnecessary for opium addicts who take the small orange tablet,
which relieves symptoms of opiate withdrawal such as agitation,
nausea and insomnia.

The study shows that "patients can receive this medication
and do well in a primary care physician's office" with nothing
more than weekly counseling, Fiellin, of the Yale University
School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., told Reuters.

Suboxone, made by the healthcare unit of Britain's Reckitt
Benckiser Plc, is available by prescription at any pharmacy and
is aimed at getting drug addiction patients away from poorly
run clinics.

It contains buprenorphine, a narcotic that produces less
euphoria than morphine, codeine or heroin. It also contains
naloxone, another drug that interferes with the effects of
opioids on the brain.

"We were surprised but somewhat pleased to see that
patients did as well with the medication and briefer
counseling," said Fiellin. The next step is to see if the
counseling is only needed once a month, he added.