Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, announced on Wednesday that the agency would launch new efforts to discourage the prevailing resistance against the long-term use of medication assisted treatment (MAT) for addiction. In fact, FDA is revising the labels of MAT drugs to reflect the fact that some patients might need long—or lifetime—regimens to maintain recovery.
Gottlieb acknowledged that while the science supports the use of MAT in recovery, advocating for indefinite use might make some stakeholders uncomfortable. However, their logic is flawed, he told a House committee.
“Someone who requires long-term treatment for opioid addiction with medications—including those that cause a physical dependence—is not addicted to those medications,” Gottlieb said.
Those who bristle at the long-term use of methadone or buprenorphine typically characterize the treatment as nothing more than “substituting one drug for another” and don’t consider MAT to equal recovery or abstinence. The stigma only causes individuals who could benefit from the MAT drugs to miss out on a better chance to achieve recovery, according to Gottlieb.
“We should not consider people who hold jobs, re-engage with their families and regain control over their lives through treatment that uses medications to be addicted,” he said.
In September, FDA, the National Institutes of Health and a number of pharmaceutical manufacturers announced a separate partnership to combine scientific efforts to work on bringing new MAT drugs to market.