Alkermes' Vivitrol gets second chance as opioid crisis deepens
- Sales of Alkerme's Vivitrol have spiked over the last year, a decade after the drug's launch and the drug was declared a commercial failure by some. Originally approved in 2006 to help alcoholism, Vivitrol use has increased as an opioid-abuse treatment.
- The FDA expanded the drug's approval in 2010 to include an indication for opioid abuse. Sales climbed 53% in 2015 to over $144 million, with a major boost coming from Medicaid, reports Bloomberg.
- President Obama has pushed for more funding to help the growing number of Americans addicted to opioids. In February, Obama asked Congress for $1.1 billion to combat the epidemic.
Unlike other abuse treatments, Vivitrol is not a narcotic and can't be abused—a problem drugs like methadone run into when addicts end up addicted to the treatment. Vivitrol's main component blocks the pleasurable sensations caused by narcotics, lessening the cravings people addicted to opioids feel.
The 28,647 opioid-related deaths that occurred last year have galvanized efforts from lawmakers and health agencies to provide additional funding for standard treatments, such as methadone and suboxone.
But with support from municipal officials, Vivitrol has become a new component of addiction treatment in more than 100 programs across 30 states, according to Bloomberg. Alkermes has lobbied heavily to increase the drug's profile.
Currently, roughly a quarter of Alkermes' revenues are coming from Vivitrol. In January, the company's depression drug failed in phase 3, leading to a 44% decline in the stock price in the space of one day. Although Richard Pop, CEO of Alkermes, has vowed to move forward with development, using modified design and analysis, right now Vivitrol's new utility looks to be a major driver of the company's growth.