Alcohol and opioid dependence medications: Prescription trends, overall and by physician specialty
Over the past decade, advances in addiction neurobiology have led to the approval of new medications to treat alcohol and opioid dependence. This study examined data from the IMS National Prescription Audit (NPA) Plus database of retail pharmacy transactions to evaluate trends in U.S. retail sales and prescriptions of FDA-approved medications to treat substance use disorders. Data reveal that prescriptions for alcoholism medications grew from 393,000 in 2003 ($30 million in sales) to an estimated 720,000 ($78 million in sales) in 2007. The growth was largely driven by the introduction of acamprosate in 2005, which soon became the market leader ($35 million in sales). Prescriptions for the two buprenorphine formulations increased from 48,000 prescriptions ($5 million in sales) in the year of their introduction (2003) to 1.9 million prescriptions ($327 million in sales) in 2007. While acamprosate and buprenorphine grew rapidly after market entry, overall substance abuse retail medication sales remain small relative to the size of the population that could benefit from treatment and relative to sales for other medications, such as antidepressants. The extent to which substance dependence medications will be adopted by physicians and patients, and marketed by industry, remains uncertain.