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Of Note

March 1, 2006
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Cost-Effectiveness StudyConfirms Earlier Findings

A new study from researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) reports a 7-to-1 ratio of monetary benefits to addiction treatment dollars spent, a finding identical to that of the 1994 California Drug and Alcohol Treatment Assessment.

The latest study, first published last October in the online edition of Health Services Research, analyzed data from more than 2,500 California treatment clients. The study found that while the average course of treatment cost $1,583, it yielded $11,487 in benefits through reduced health and justice system costs and increased employment earnings.

Researchers found statistically significant decreases in emergency care costs as a result of addiction treatment services, with lesser decreases in costs of hospital inpatient care and mental health services. Welfare payments increased slightly as a result of treatment, possibly because of heightened referral activity to public assistance programs, researchers reported.

The California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, the federal Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Substance Abuse Policy Research Program supported the study.

Injectable NaltrexoneMoves Closer to Approval

The makers of an extended-release, injectable form of the medication naltrexone to treat alcohol dependence learned in December that they are just a couple of procedural details away from being able to market their drug in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an approvable letter for the medication, which would be sold under the brand name Vivitrol. Approval of the drug is contingent upon finalization of the product label and fulfillment of the FDA's request for some additional preclinical data about the drug.

Some experts believe the monthly injectable dosing that Vivitrol would provide will finally boost interest in what has been a significantly underutilized alcoholism treatment since its introduction in the mid-1990s. Pharmaceutical companies Alkermes, Inc., and Cephalon, Inc., submitted a New Drug Application to the FDA for Vivitrol (formerly known as Vivitrex) in March 2005.

Company officials said in a late December statement that they believe they are on track for a launch of injectable naltrexone in the second quarter of this year. They have emphasized that in order to achieve optimal treatment results, professionals should prescribe the drug as part of a treatment plan that includes psychosocial support.

Drug Abusers Proneto Bacterial Infections

Researchers have reported a link between illegal drug abuse and susceptibility to dangerous bacterial infections, indicating that both viral illnesses such as HIV and bacterial illnesses threaten the health of drug abusers. Reporting in the November 3, 2005, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) report susceptibility to bacterial infections from several drug-using and related practices, including engaging in injection drug use or smoking a drug and then expelling the smoke into someone else's mouth. In addition, some men who have had sex with men who use crystal methamphetamine have contracted certain antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.

“Infections are among the most serious complications of drug abuse, and people who abuse drugs risk contracting numerous and varied bacterial infections,” says NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, PhD. “The pathogens responsible can cause severe and potentially life-threatening infections of the skin, soft tissue, and even the heart.”

Among the various infections that may develop from drug abuse are infective endocarditis, which can damage heart valves; pulmonary tuberculosis; and wound botulism that if untreated can cause paralysis and lead to death from respiratory failure.

Study Seeks to CloseResearch-to-Practice Gap

The University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions will use the subject of behavioral couples therapy in a study designed to narrow the gap between addiction research and professional practice. Under a $1.6 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Research Institute scientist Christopher Barrick, PhD, will oversee development of an innovative model to offer clinicians training in addiction treatment skills.

“Designed and refined with community practitioners' practical experiences, impressions, and feedback, this clinical resource for therapists will incorporate the Internet and laptop computers we provide,” says Dr. Barrick. “The multimedia format is designed to be easy-to-use and engaging, with equally effective training for in-person settings and distance learning situations.”

Behavioral couples therapy will serve as the training topic for this study because therapists are generally interested in this treatment and because there is good evidence of the therapy's effectiveness, according to Dr. Barrick.

National PSA CampaignAims at Underage Drinking

A federally sponsored meeting on underage drinking last fall opened with an announcement of the launch of a national public awareness campaign that will ask parents to speak with their children in an effort to curb underage alcohol use.

Mike Leavitt, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), stated at the October 31 to November 1 event that public service announcements (PSAs) in the campaign will target parents of children ages 11 to 15. The announcements will end with the tag line “Start Talking Before They Start Drinking.”