Guest blog by Mike Derkacz, President & CEO of Braeburn.
Opioid overdose is the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 and takes the lives of more than 116 Americans every day. The economic toll on our nation is equally stark – estimates released by the Council of Economic Advisers put the cost of the epidemic at $504 billion in 2015, a number we can safely assume has since increased. It’s not hard to see that opioid addiction, also known as opioid use disorder (OUD), is the fastest growing public health crisis in America today.
Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to take part in several events with individuals dedicated to addressing this crisis, including policymakers, healthcare providers, patient advocates and corporate leaders. I’ve been both inspired by the support for patients living with OUD and devastated by the toll this disease has taken on American families and communities.
During a recent trip to Ohio, a state who has experienced a 39 percent increase in opioid-related deaths from 2016 to 2017, I was privileged to spend time with paramedics and EMTs, a brave group who are often first to respond to opioid overdoses. I was immediately struck by the empathy that they have for people living with OUD. Most did not foresee the crisis when they began their career. They didn’t know how to administer Narcan® (naloxone HCI), a prescription medicine used for the treatment of an opioid overdose. They certainly didn’t know they would find themselves using it every day to save lives. Their experiences as first-responders have changed their perception, and they now recognize OUD as a chronic, relapsing brain disease — not a moral failing.
As the saying goes, perception is reality. It’s imperative that we continue to reduce the stigma around OUD that often prevents patients from seeking or remaining in treatment. That’s why our team at Braeburn partners with those who are equally passionate about fighting this crisis, including the many healthcare professionals on the front lines of the U.S. opioid addiction epidemic. The goal is to educate the community that OUD is a brain disease that can be managed with personalized treatment. In fact, recently Braeburn brought together healthcare professionals, along with caregivers and payers, for a congressional briefing to discuss the benefit of “warm hand-offs” in emergency departments to promote screening for OUD and connect patients with treatment resources at a critical point in their journey.
Braeburn is also focused on therapies specifically designed to fight this crisis. CAM2038 is an investigational buprenorphine flexible-dose weekly and monthly subcutaneous depot injection for the treatment of adults with OUD, currently under review with the United States Food and Drug Administration. If approved, it would be the first and only injectable for moderate to severe OUD available in both weekly and monthly formulations that is administered by healthcare professionals through all stages of a patient’s recovery journey. Since it would be injected directly by a healthcare professional to their patient greater adherence to therapy may be possible while potentially minimizing the risks of diversion. I truly believe treatments like this may offer hope for everyone dedicated to ending this devastating epidemic.
Many other positive strides are being made across the country — the crisis is gaining national attention. Sixteen major healthcare payers adopted eight “National Principles of Care” for the treatment of addiction, and funding has been increased in many states to support access to treatment. We are moving in the right direction. But there’s still much more to be done.
We each have a role to play. All of us can continue to help break down stigmas, change perceptions and help fight the opioid addiction crisis. At Braeburn, we’re proud to be part of the solution.
Learn more about what Braeburn is doing at www.braeburnrx.com.