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FDA Approves Monthly Injection to Treat Opioid Addiction

The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday it has approved a monthly injection that helps treat opioid addiction.

The medicine itself—called buprenorphine—has long been considered a gold-standard treatment for addiction to prescription painkillers or heroin, but it's never before been made available in injection form. People have typically taken buprenorphine orally, as a daily pill or strip that dissolves in the mouth. But the pills and strips themselves can have a euphoric effect on users who aren't already accustomed to high doses of opioids, and thus have black-market value. The injection, which must be administered by a health-care professional, could eliminate worries that buprenorphine patients will sell their pills.

The injection is called Sublocade and is made by a United Kingdom-based company called Indivior. In 2016, it received fast-track consideration, which the FDA uses for drugs it believes will "treat serious conditions and fill an unmet medical need."