Addiction specialists and law enforcement officials are pleading with Florida House members to keep funding for an injectable opioid-addiction treatment.
The House’s proposed budget zeroes out funding for Vivitrol, a drug that blocks opioid receptors in the brain for 30 days.
As opioid overdose deaths continue in the Sunshine State, House members would like to cut $7 million in recurring funding for the anti-addiction drug. Vivitrol is used by jails to help the addicted stave off cravings in the month following their release, as well as by community treatment programs and the state Department of Children and Families. The money bolsters more than 100 publicly-funded Vivitrol programs across the state.
Though House and Senate leaders want to increase funding overall for opioid addiction treatment, Mark Fontaine with the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association said these program would be a profound loss.
“This is an important tool in the tool box, and every House member I’ve spoken to, I’ve asked them to take under consideration that this is a very valuable tool in helping us in our fight in the opioid epidemic,” he said.
Vivitrol isn’t the only opioid receptor-blocking drug available. An NPR and ProPublica investigation found Vivitrol’s maker has aggressively lobbied state legislatures, including Florida’s, and fought for programs that excluded its competitors.
Morphine and Buprenorphine are similar drugs, but they are less-potent opioids and are available to be administered by the patient, making it easier for them to abused. An injectable, slow-release version of Buprenorphine received preliminary approval by the Food and Drug Administration last year, and some state experts say it’s more effective than Vivitrol.
Fontaine said the state should have an all-of-the-above strategy and that to his knowledge, lawmakers aren’t replacing Vivitrol programs with any other similar drug.
“All of these medications are valuable and important,” he said.
A final decision will be made as lawmakers hammer out the state budget in the remaining week or so of session.