Newly approved, ‘game-changing’ opioid addiction treatment spearheaded at metro clinic

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PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. -- The opioid crisis continues to grip the nation with four people overdosing every hour. But now, a newly approved treatment hopes to treat addiction and save lives, and it's all being pioneered right here in the metro.

Doug Palmer is a happily married dad, but his life wasn't always so picture perfect.

"It's been a long battle for me," he said.

More than 20 years ago, Palmer was in a devastating car crash.

"I was ejected through a back window of a car going 100 miles an hour, was in pretty bad shape," he said.

Doug Palmer

That's when doctors first introduced Palmer to powerful opioid pain killers.

"By the time I was a sophomore in college, I was getting like 240 OxyContin pills a month off my doctor," he said. "I was pretty much a full-blown addicted."

The addiction consumed his mind, pushing him to lie and steal to get drugs.

"It goes from being fun to being you need it," Palmer said. "It's not fun anymore to take the pills. It's a necessity. You need to take them to do anything."

Five years ago, he heard an ad on the radio that changed his life.

Phoenix Medical Research in Prairie Village was offering a clinical trial to treat opioid addiction. The first treatments, u sing pills and an oral patch, helped him finally get clean.

"It was a huge difference. Everything changed. People are able to trust you again. You start to be able to do things without having to take medicine," Palmer said.

But the real game-changer came last year.

Phoenix Medical Research was in the middle of a new trial for an injectable medication called Sublocade. No more remembering to take a pill or use a patch -- the shot lasts a whole month and can help opioid addicts handle withdrawal and kick the cravings to use.

Photo courtesy Sublocade

"Before, we`ve had very limited access to medications that last a long enough period of time that people`s lives actually change," said Dr. Haydn Mikel Thomas with Phoenix Medical Recovery. "So with having new medications like these, we actually see these individuals can actually integrate them into their regular lives and return back to a life of normalcy."

"Once I got the shot, it was like a miracle," Palmer said. "I felt like I was reborn, became a new person. I was able to live my life and not have to think about taking a pill, which was huge for me."

The success with Sublocade during clinical trials in Kansas City helped the medication win FDA approval in November. It became publicly available in March.

And Phoenix Medical Research is now opening a recovery wing to get more patients access to the addiction treatment.

"Even though we only have 40 patients in the trial, we have the availability of 130 patients presently. This is hope," Thomas said.

Phoenix Medical is working with insurance companies to get the $1,600 medication covered.

At least one national pharmacy chain is also working to stock the injection, which is typically taken over a one to two year period and has lasting effects to conquer addiction.

Palmer is grateful for his new lease on life and hopes others will see there's help and hope for them, too.

"Don`t wait. Don`t wait another day. Don`t wait another hour. Call some place right now and try to get medical help, for Suboxone or the new injection that`s out, because it`ll change your life dramatically," he said.

Doctors say it's important to remember any medication used to treat addiction is only part of the picture. Patients are strongly encouraged to also seek counseling or behavioral therapy.

You can learn more about the recovery clinic here or by calling 913-381-718.

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