In a 12-1 vote, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of Vivitrol to treat addiction to opiates like heroin and prescription painkillers, ABC News reported Oct. 13.
Vivitrol, a form of naltrexone manufactured by Alkermes, is already used to treat about 10,000 patients a year for alcoholism. Though available in pill form, it is usually administered as a monthly shot, and can be prescribed by physicians.
Naltrexone works by blocking opioid receptors in the brain, ensuring that patients will not feel any effects if they attempt to use while being treated. Over time, their cravings diminish. By contrast, methadone is used as a replacement drug for opiates -- users can still be addicted to it -- and buprenorphine blocks some receptors, but not all.
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