CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The Medical University of South Carolina is now offering an implant to treat opioid dependence.
Probuphine is designed to treat adults addicted to prescription or illegal opioid drugs.
MUSC became the first in the state to administer the treatment earlier this summer.
Dr. Angela Dempsey, an obstetrician and gynecologist at MUSC, administered the probuphine implants into a male patient in early May.
The outpatient surgery is similar to that of birth control implantations.
"The difference is the contraceptive implant is a single rod. Probuphine implants, for a full treatment, are four rods," she said. "The consistency of the rods is a little different. The probuphine implants are a little more delicate."
Once placed in the arm, the treatment goes virtually unnoticed.
Dempsey said, "The patient would be able to feel it under the skin, but it is not visible."
Probuphine is a buprenorphine implant. Buprenorphine is a slow release medication used to gently wean addicts off opioids and heroin.
"Will keep releasing buprenorphine for up to six months to help reduce your cravings and withdrawal symptoms," according to Braeburn pharmaceuticals, the maker of the drug.
To receive the treatment, patients must already be on a relatively low dose of buprenorphine and in counseling, Dr. Sarah Book said.
Dr. Book is helping bring the potentially groundbreaking treatment to MUSC.
"People who get probuphine no longer have to have the behavior of taking a drug every day to treat a drug use disorder," Dr. Book said.
So far, MUSC has administered Probuphine into one patient, but is in talks with others looking for a new treatment.
Dr. Dempsey and her team are willing and ready to help when needed.
"Being able to provide that to patients who are struggling with that disorder can make a big impact in their individual lives and hopefully at the population level."