Drug Company Behind Vitriol Markets Addiction Treatment to Judges

To boost market share, a drug company pitched its anti-opioid drug to courts.

August 4, 2017 11:45 am
Drug courts
(Getty Images)

A drug manufacturer is marketing its anti-opioid medication directly to judges in courts designed to provide treatment to those convicted of addiction-related crimes.

Alkermes, the pharmaceutical company behind Vitriol, is using the unprecedented marketing strategy to boost market share, NPR reports. The drug manufacturer knows judges are preferential to Vitriol over Buprenorphine or methadone, two other medications that contain opioids. As such, they can be misused or sold illegally on the street.

According to NPR, Vitriol is extensively marketed to criminal justice officials working in drug courts across the country, leading many to favor it without any alternative. It’s also lobbied to policymakers to write laws that favor the drug, like in Indiana.

Although buprenorphine or methadone are both FDA-approved and long considered the standard for treating opioid addiction, courts feel more comfortable recommending treatment that is “nonaddictive,” like Vitriol, according to NPR.

Critics say the strategy effective makes criminal justice officials responsible for medical decisions without the expertise, which can ultimately hurt patients. NPR reports judges say the patients are given a choice, but those deciding say it feels like jail is the only other option.

Vitriol can be effective addiction treatment, but it’s not for everybody like pregnant women or those with chronic pain. The relapse rate for addicts treated with Vitriol is lower, the lack of opioids puts patients at a greater risk for overdose if they do.

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