ProPublica: Local drug maker’s opiate addiction shot becoming drug court standard

Alkermes, a Wilmington company, is the sole producer of a new FDA-approved drug, Vivitrol, used to treat substance abuse.
Caption
Alkermes, a Wilmington company, is the sole producer of a new FDA-approved drug, Vivitrol, used to treat substance abuse.

Credit: Chris Stewart

Credit: Chris Stewart

Alkermes, a pharmaceutical manufacturer with a plant located in Wilmington, is the subject of an expose on ProPublica.org over its anti-addiction drug Vivitrol.

According to author Alec MacGillis, Alkermes began aggressively marketing the drug and began aiming for federal and state funding, all while the drug became a popular staple in drug courts across the state.

In 2016 the state paid $38 million for Vivitrol doses through Medicaid, the number is expected to rise exponentially this year. With many viewing Suboxene, another medical treatment for opiate addiction, as a mask; Vivitrol gained popularity after it won FDA approval and began courting state and local officials, including judges at drug courts. The drug is popular in Ohio, with 30,000 doses rendered in 2016 alone. Its use has grown with 450 public initiatives in 39 states using the drug to fight opiate addiction.

ProPublica's article concerned drug courts offering Vivitrol regimens in place of felony counts. The testing of the drug is also a controversy, as much of it was done in Russia, and there's little known about addicts who complete the program or drop out for not keeping up with their court-rendered regimen.

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