"Drug overdoses now cause more deaths than car crashes, with opioids like Oxycontin killing 44 people a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And treatment protocol for individuals addicted to opioids has largely been methodone, which has addictive qualities itself.
Vivitrol, the first and only non-narcotic treatment of opioid dependence, saw sales grow almost 50% year-over-year last quarter, a statistic that Alkermes (ALKS) CEO Richard Pops says reflects strong demand.
Alternatives like methodone have substituted for illictly acquired opioids in the past, but still have highly addictive qualities. Vivitrol, in a six-month study, showed that after detox, opioid-dependent patients who took Vivitrol and participated in counseling had significantly higher rates of complete abstinence.
Leerink Swann analyst Paul Matteis reiterated the strength of Vivitrol: "We believe the product has significant long-term growth potential as the market still looks underpenetrated -- while recent revenue numbers have impressed, a small percentage of addiction providers are very high prescribers of Vivitrol, offering Alkermes an attractive commercial opportunity to generate broader use over time."
A New York Times article this weekend highlighted the increasing use of heroin among white, affluent families -- a demographic shift that has begun to alter response from government to treat it as a disease instead of a crime."