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1.  Levodopa Pharmacotherapy for Cocaine Dependence: Choosing the Optimal Behavioral Therapy Platform 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2007;94(1-3):142-150.
The dopamine precursor levodopa has shown some, albeit relatively weak, promise in treating cocaine dependence. This study sought to identify the most appropriate behavioral therapy platform for levodopa pharmacotherapy by evaluating its effect when administered in combination with behavioral platforms of varying intensities.
A total of 161 treatment-seeking cocaine dependent subjects received sustained release levodopa/carbidopa (400/100 mg bid, Sinemet) or placebo delivered in combination with Clinical Management (ClinMan); ClinMan+Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT); or ClinMan+CBT+Voucher-Based Reinforcement Therapy (VBRT) in a 12-week randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind (for medication condition) trial. Medication compliance was monitored with riboflavin (100 mg/capsule) and the Medication Event Monitoring System. Protocol compliance was addressed in weekly, 10-minute nurse-delivered ClinMan sessions. Weekly, 1-hour CBT sessions focused on coping skills training. VBRT (with escalating reinforcer value) provided cash-valued vouchers contingent on cocaine-negative urine toxicology results. Urine benzoylecgonine assays collected thrice-weekly were analyzed by intention-to-treat criteria using generalized linear mixed models.
Levodopa main effects were found on all outcome measures of cocaine use. Contrasts testing the levodopa-placebo difference within each behavioral platform found reliable effects, favoring levodopa, only in the VBRT platform. Levodopa treatment with vouchers produced higher proportions of cocaine-negative urines and longer periods of consecutive abstinence compared to other treatment combinations.
This is the first study to find a significant treatment effect for levodopa and, in doing so, to demonstrate that the magnitude of this effect is dependent upon conditions of the behavioral therapy platform. The data support use of levodopa with abstinence-based reinforcement therapy as one efficacious combination in cocaine dependence disorder treatment.
PMCID: PMC2293271  PMID: 18164144
levodopa-carbidopa; cocaine treatment; contingency management; Voucher-Based Reinforcement Therapy; VBRT
2.  Evaluation of Subjective Effects of Aripiprazole and Methamphetamine in Methamphetamine-Dependent Volunteers 
A variety of neuropharmacological strategies are being pursued in the search for an effective treatment for methamphetamine addiction. In this study, we investigated the safety and potential efficacy of aripiprazole, an antipsychotic agent acting on both dopamine and serotonin systems. We conducted a double-blind inpatient clinical pharmacology study to assess potential interactions between intravenous (IV) methamphetamine (15mg and 30mg) and oral aripiprazole (15mg). In addition, the effects of aripiprazole treatment on abstinence related craving and cue-induced craving were evaluated. Participants included non-treatment seeking, methamphetamine dependent patients (N=16), 18-45 years of age, currently using methamphetamine. Following baseline methamphetamine dosing (15mg and 30mg), participants received 2 weeks of treatment with aripiprazole (n=8) or placebo (n=8). Participants then completed cue exposure sessions using neutral and methamphetamine-related cues. Methamphetamine dosing (15mg and 30mg) was then repeated. Aripiprazole treatment had no effect on cue-induced methamphetamine craving, or on daily baseline craving assessed over the course of medication treatment, though aripiprazole treatment was associated with increased craving independent of methamphetamine dosing. Aripiprazole treatment was associated with significantly higher ratings on ARCI subscales reflecting euphoria and amphetamine-like effects following methamphetamine dosing. Aripiprazole was treatment was also associated with significant reductions in ratings of “bad effects” and reductions on the ARCI subscale for sedation effects following methamphetamine dosing. Aripiprazole treatment reduced the increase in systolic blood pressure following methamphetamine dosing, but had no other effects on cardiovascular responses to methamphetamine. Aripiprazole treatment did not alter the pharmacokinetics of methamphetamine. These findings indicate that aripiprazole treatment appears to be safe in volunteers with methamphetamine dependence, though the finding that aripiprazole increased some of the rewarding and stimulatory effects produced by acute methamphetamine suggests that 15mg aripiprazole is unlikely to be efficacious for the treatment of methamphetamine dependence. Further research with lower doses of aripiprazole, possibly using study designs aimed at evaluating efficacy for relapse prevention, are needed before ruling out aripiprazole as a treatment for methamphetamine dependence.
PMCID: PMC2782728  PMID: 18664303
Drug and alcohol dependence  2010;111(1-2):97-104.
Preclinical findings suggest that the inhibition of NMDA glutamatergic neurotransmission may have beneficial effects in the treatment of cocaine dependence. We hypothesized that memantine, a low potency, uncompetitive NMDA receptor antagonist, would be safe and effective in the treatment of cocaine dependence, particularly in preventing relapse to cocaine use in abstinent individuals.
Cocaine dependent patients (N =112) were enrolled. The trial began with a 2-week placebo lead-in period during which patients received high-value voucher contingency management to induce abstinence. Participants were then randomized to receive either memantine 20 mg bid (N=39) or placebo (N=42) for 12-weeks in combination with individual relapse-prevention therapy. The randomization was stratified by abstinence status during the lead-in period. The primary outcome was the weekly proportion of days of cocaine use.
There were no significant differences in cocaine use outcome between the groups treated with memantine versus placebo. Thus, the efficacy of memantine 40 mg/d for the treatment of cocaine dependence was not supported. Urine-confirmed abstinence during the lead-in period was achieved by 44% of participants, and was a strong predictor of subsequent cocaine abstinence during the trial. This suggests that this clinical trial design, an intensive behavioral intervention during a lead-in period, resolves cocaine dependent patients into two subgroups, one that rapidly achieves sustained abstinence and may not need a medication, and another that displays persistent cocaine use and would most likely benefit from a medication to help induce abstinence. Targeting the latter subgroup may advance medication development efforts.
PMCID: PMC2930076  PMID: 20537812
Cocaine dependence; Pharmacotherapy trials; NMDA receptors; Placebo lead-in; High value contingency reinforcement
4.  Smoking Cessation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) 
Executive Summary
In July 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) evidentiary framework, an evidence-based review of the literature surrounding treatment strategies for patients with COPD. This project emerged from a request by the Health System Strategy Division of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that MAS provide them with an evidentiary platform on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of COPD interventions.
After an initial review of health technology assessments and systematic reviews of COPD literature, and consultation with experts, MAS identified the following topics for analysis: vaccinations (influenza and pneumococcal), smoking cessation, multidisciplinary care, pulmonary rehabilitation, long-term oxygen therapy, noninvasive positive pressure ventilation for acute and chronic respiratory failure, hospital-at-home for acute exacerbations of COPD, and telehealth (including telemonitoring and telephone support). Evidence-based analyses were prepared for each of these topics. For each technology, an economic analysis was also completed where appropriate. In addition, a review of the qualitative literature on patient, caregiver, and provider perspectives on living and dying with COPD was conducted, as were reviews of the qualitative literature on each of the technologies included in these analyses.
The Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Mega-Analysis series is made up of the following reports, which can be publicly accessed at the MAS website at:
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Evidentiary Framework
Influenza and Pneumococcal Vaccinations for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Smoking Cessation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Community-Based Multidisciplinary Care for Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Pulmonary Rehabilitation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Long-term Oxygen Therapy for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Acute Respiratory Failure Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Chronic Respiratory Failure Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Hospital-at-Home Programs for Patients With Acute Exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Home Telehealth for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Using an Ontario Policy Model
Experiences of Living and Dying With COPD: A Systematic Review and Synthesis of the Qualitative Empirical Literature
For more information on the qualitative review, please contact Mita Giacomini at: member_giacomini.htm.
For more information on the economic analysis, please visit the PATH website:
The Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment (THETA) collaborative has produced an associated report on patient preference for mechanical ventilation. For more information, please visit the THETA website:
The objective of this evidence-based analysis was to determine the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of smoking cessation interventions in the management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Tobacco smoking is the main risk factor for COPD. It is estimated that 50% of older smokers develop COPD and more than 80% of COPD-associated morbidity is attributed to tobacco smoking. According to the Canadian Community Health Survey, 38.5% of Ontarians who smoke have COPD. In patients with a significant history of smoking, COPD is usually present with symptoms of progressive dyspnea (shortness of breath), cough, and sputum production. Patients with COPD who smoke have a particularly high level of nicotine dependence, and about 30.4% to 43% of patients with moderate to severe COPD continue to smoke. Despite the severe symptoms that COPD patients suffer, the majority of patients with COPD are unable to quit smoking on their own; each year only about 1% of smokers succeed in quitting on their own initiative.
Smoking cessation is the process of discontinuing the practice of inhaling a smoked substance. Smoking cessation can help to slow or halt the progression of COPD. Smoking cessation programs mainly target tobacco smoking, but may also encompass other substances that can be difficult to stop smoking due to the development of strong physical addictions or psychological dependencies resulting from their habitual use.
Smoking cessation strategies include both pharmacological and nonpharmacological (behavioural or psychosocial) approaches. The basic components of smoking cessation interventions include simple advice, written self-help materials, individual and group behavioural support, telephone quit lines, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), and antidepressants. As nicotine addiction is a chronic, relapsing condition that usually requires several attempts to overcome, cessation support is often tailored to individual needs, while recognizing that in general, the more intensive the support, the greater the chance of success. Success at quitting smoking decreases in relation to:
a lack of motivation to quit,
a history of smoking more than a pack of cigarettes a day for more than 10 years,
a lack of social support, such as from family and friends, and
the presence of mental health disorders (such as depression).
Research Question
What are the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of smoking cessation interventions compared with usual care for patients with COPD?
Research Methods
Literature Search
Search Strategy
A literature search was performed on June 24, 2010 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations (1950 to June Week 3 2010), EMBASE (1980 to 2010 Week 24), the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination for studies published between 1950 and June 2010. A single reviewer reviewed the abstracts and obtained full-text articles for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria. Reference lists were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the search. Data were extracted using a standardized data abstraction form.
Inclusion Criteria
English-language, full reports from 1950 to week 3 of June, 2010;
either randomized controlled trials (RCTs), systematic reviews and meta-analyses, or non-RCTs with controls;
a proven diagnosis of COPD;
adult patients (≥ 18 years);
a smoking cessation intervention that comprised at least one of the treatment arms;
≥ 6 months’ abstinence as an outcome; and
patients followed for ≥ 6 months.
Exclusion Criteria
case reports
case series
Outcomes of Interest
≥ 6 months’ abstinence
Quality of Evidence
The quality of each included study was assessed taking into consideration allocation concealment, randomization, blinding, power/sample size, withdrawals/dropouts, and intention-to-treat analyses.
The quality of the body of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low, or very low according to the GRADE Working Group criteria. The following definitions of quality were used in grading the quality of the evidence:
Summary of Findings
Nine RCTs were identified from the literature search. The sample sizes ranged from 74 to 5,887 participants. A total of 8,291 participants were included in the nine studies. The mean age of the patients in the studies ranged from 54 to 64 years. The majority of studies used the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) COPD staging criteria to stage the disease in study subjects. Studies included patients with mild COPD (2 studies), mild-moderate COPD (3 studies), moderate–severe COPD (1 study) and severe–very severe COPD (1 study). One study included persons at risk of COPD in addition to those with mild, moderate, or severe COPD, and 1 study did not define the stages of COPD. The individual quality of the studies was high. Smoking cessation interventions varied across studies and included counselling or pharmacotherapy or a combination of both. Two studies were delivered in a hospital setting, whereas the remaining 7 studies were delivered in an outpatient setting. All studies reported a usual care group or a placebo-controlled group (for the drug-only trials). The follow-up periods ranged from 6 months to 5 years. Due to excessive clinical heterogeneity in the interventions, studies were first grouped into categories of similar interventions; statistical pooling was subsequently performed, where appropriate. When possible, pooled estimates using relative risks for abstinence rates with 95% confidence intervals were calculated. The remaining studies were reported separately.
Abstinence Rates
Table ES1 provides a summary of the pooled estimates for abstinence, at longest follow-up, from the trials included in this review. It also shows the respective GRADE qualities of evidence.
Summary of Results*
Abbreviations: CI, confidence interval; NRT, nicotine replacement therapy.
Statistically significant (P < 0.05).
One trial used in this comparison had 2 treatment arms each examining a different antidepressant.
Based on a moderate quality of evidence, compared with usual care, abstinence rates are significantly higher in COPD patients receiving intensive counselling or a combination of intensive counselling and NRT.
Based on limited and moderate quality of evidence, abstinence rates are significantly higher in COPD patients receiving NRT compared with placebo.
Based on a moderate quality of evidence, abstinence rates are significantly higher in COPD patients receiving the antidepressant bupropion compared to placebo.
PMCID: PMC3384371  PMID: 23074432
5.  Topiramate for the treatment of methamphetamine addiction: a multi-center placebo-controlled trial 
Addiction (Abingdon, England)  2012;107(7):1297-1306.
Topiramate has shown efficacy at facilitating abstinence from alcohol and cocaine abuse. This double-blind, placebo-controlled outpatient trial tested topiramate for treating methamphetamine addiction.
Participants (N=140) were randomized to receive topiramate or placebo (13 weeks) in escalating doses from 50 mg/day to the target maintenance of 200 mg/day in weeks 6–12 (tapered in week 13). Medication was combined with weekly brief behavioral compliance enhancement treatment.
The trial was conducted at eight medical centers in the United States.
One hundred forty methamphetamine-dependent adults took part in the trial.
The primary outcome was abstinence from methamphetamine during weeks 6 – 12. Secondary outcomes included use reduction versus baseline, as well as psychosocial variables.
In the intent-to-treat analysis, topiramate did not increase abstinence from methamphetamine during weeks 6–12. For secondary outcomes, topiramate reduced weekly median urine methamphetamine levels and observer-rated severity of dependence scores significantly. Subjects with negative urine before randomization (N=26) had significantly greater abstinence on topiramate versus placebo during study weeks 6–12. Topiramate was safe and well tolerated.
Topiramate does not appear to promote abstinence in methamphetamine users but can reduce the amount taken and reduce relapse rates in those who are already abstinent.
PMCID: PMC3331916  PMID: 22221594
topiramate; methamphetamine abuse; abstinence facilitation; treatment
6.  Brain mu-opioid receptor binding predicts treatment outcome in cocaine-abusing outpatients 
Biological psychiatry  2010;68(8):697-703.
Cocaine users not seeking treatment have increased regional brain mu-opioid receptor (mOR) binding that correlates with cocaine craving and tendency to relapse. In cocaine-abusing outpatients in treatment, the relationship of mOR binding and treatment outcome is unknown.
We determined whether regional brain mOR binding before treatment correlates with outcome and compared it to standard clinical predictors of outcome. Twenty-five individuals seeking outpatient treatment for cocaine abuse or dependence (DSM-IV) received up to 12 weeks of cognitive-behavioral therapy and cocaine-abstinence reinforcement whereby each cocaine-free urine was reinforced with vouchers redeemable for goods. Regional brain mOR binding was measured before treatment using positron emission tomography (PET) with [11C] carfentanil (a selective mOR agonist). Main outcome measures were: 1) overall percentage of urines positive for cocaine during first month of treatment, 2) longest duration (weeks) of abstinence from cocaine during treatment, all verified by urine toxicology.
Elevated mOR binding in the medial frontal and middle frontal gyri before treatment correlated with greater cocaine use during treatment. Elevated mOR binding in the anterior cingulate, medial frontal, middle frontal, middle temporal, and sub-lobar insular gyri correlated with shorter duration of cocaine abstinence during treatment. Regional mOR binding contributed significant predictive power for treatment outcome beyond that of standard clinical variables such as baseline drug and alcohol use.
Elevated mOR binding in brain regions associated with reward sensitivity is a significant independent predictor of treatment outcome in cocaine-abusing outpatients, suggesting a key role for the brain endogenous opioid system in cocaine addiction.
PMCID: PMC2949457  PMID: 20579973
cocaine; mu-opioid receptor; PET; treatment; addiction; dependence
7.  Effects of monoamine releasers with varying selectivity for releasing dopamine/norepinephrine versus serotonin on choice between cocaine and food in rhesus monkeys 
Behavioural pharmacology  2011;22(8):824-836.
Monoamine releasers constitute one class of candidate medications for treatment of cocaine abuse, and concurrent cocaine-versus-food choice procedures are potentially valuable as experimental tools to evaluate the efficacy and safety of candidate medications. This study assessed choice between cocaine and food by rhesus monkeys during treatment with five monoamine releasers that varied in selectivity to promote release of dopamine and norepinephrine (DA/NE) vs. serotonin (5HT) [m-fluoroamphetamine, (+)-phenmetrazine, (+)-methamphetamine, napthylisopropylamine and (±)-fenfluramine]. Rhesus monkeys (n=8) responded under a concurrent-choice schedule of food delivery (1-g pellets, fixed-ratio 100 schedule) and cocaine injections (0 – 0.1 mg/kg/inj, fixed-ratio 10 schedule). Cocaine choice dose-effect curves were determined daily during continuous seven-day treatment with saline or each test compound dose. During saline treatment, cocaine maintained a dose-dependent increase in cocaine choice, and the highest cocaine doses (0.032 – 0.1 mg/kg/inj) maintained almost exclusive cocaine choice. Efficacy of monoamine releasers to decrease cocaine choice corresponded to their pharmacological selectivity to release DA/NE vs. 5HT. None of the releasers reduced cocaine choice or promoted reallocation of responding to food choice to the same extent as substituting saline for cocaine. These results extend the range of conditions across which DA/NE-selective releasers have been shown to reduce cocaine self-administration.
PMCID: PMC3476464  PMID: 22015808
Cocaine; choice; nonhuman primates; monoamine releasers; dopamine; serotonin, norepinephrine
8.  Maintenance of reinforcement to address the chronic nature of drug addiction 
Preventive medicine  2012;55(Suppl):S46-S53.
Drug addiction can be a chronic problem. Abstinence reinforcement can initiate drug abstinence, but as with other treatments many patients relapse after the intervention ends. Abstinence reinforcement can be maintained to promote long-term drug abstinence, but practical means of implementing long-term abstinence reinforcement are needed.
We reviewed 8 clinical trials conducted in Baltimore, MD from 1996 through 2010 that evaluated the therapeutic workplace as a vehicle for maintaining reinforcement for the treatment of drug addiction. The therapeutic workplace uses employment-based reinforcement in which employees must provide objective evidence of drug abstinence or medication adherence to work and earn wages.
Employment-based reinforcement can initiate (3 of 4 studies) and maintain (2 studies) cocaine abstinence in methadone patients, although relapse can occur even after long-term exposure to abstinence reinforcement (1 study). Employment-based reinforcement can also promote abstinence from alcohol in homeless alcohol dependent adults (1 study), and maintain adherence to extended-release naltrexone in opioid dependent adults (2 studies).
Treatments should seek to promote life-long effects in patients. Therapeutic reinforcement may need to be maintained indefinitely to prevent relapse. Workplaces could be effective vehicles for the maintenance of therapeutic reinforcement contingencies for drug abstinence and adherence to addiction medications.
PMCID: PMC3437006  PMID: 22668883
Reinforcement; Incentives; Contingency Management; Cocaine; Heroin; Drug Addiction; Treatment; Employment; Poverty; Relapse
9.  How Does Medical Device Regulation Perform in the United States and the European Union? A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001276.
Aaron Kesselheim and colleagues conduct a systematic review to examine the strengths and weaknesses associated with approaches to medical device regulation in the US and EU.
Policymakers and regulators in the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) are weighing reforms to their medical device approval and post-market surveillance systems. Data may be available that identify strengths and weakness of the approaches to medical device regulation in these settings.
Methods and Findings
We performed a systematic review to find empirical studies evaluating medical device regulation in the US or EU. We searched Medline using two nested categories that included medical devices and glossary terms attributable to the US Food and Drug Administration and the EU, following PRISMA guidelines for systematic reviews. We supplemented this search with a review of the US Government Accountability Office online database for reports on US Food and Drug Administration device regulation, consultations with local experts in the field, manual reference mining of selected articles, and Google searches using the same key terms used in the Medline search. We found studies of premarket evaluation and timing (n = 9), studies of device recalls (n = 8), and surveys of device manufacturers (n = 3). These studies provide evidence of quality problems in pre-market submissions in the US, provide conflicting views of device safety based largely on recall data, and relay perceptions of some industry leaders from self-surveys.
Few studies have quantitatively assessed medical device regulation in either the US or EU. Existing studies of US and EU device approval and post-market evaluation performance suggest that policy reforms are necessary for both systems, including improving classification of devices in the US and promoting transparency and post-market oversight in the EU. Assessment of regulatory performance in both settings is limited by lack of data on post-approval safety outcomes. Changes to these device approval and post-marketing systems must be accompanied by ongoing research to ensure that there is better assessment of what works in either setting.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Medical devices—health technologies that are not medicines, vaccines, or clinical procedures—cover a vast range of equipment from the simple to the more complex. Medical devices are essential for patient care, and in the past decade, new devices have offered improved treatment alternatives for many diseases and conditions, leading to substantial growth in the US$350 billion medical device industry. However, new medical devices also pose substantial risks to patients, as shown in recent high-profile product recalls involving breast implants and artificial hip implants.
Why Was This Study Done?
Concerns about the safety of new medical devices have led to calls for greater testing of the safety and effectiveness of new devices before they come on the market and for improved monitoring of their performance after new devices have been approved for use by a regulatory body. In this study, the researchers systematically reviewed evidence about the performance of medical device approval and post-market surveillance systems in two of the most important world markets for medical devices—the United States and the European Union.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers performed a keyword search in Medline (a database of published biomedical literature) for all relevant articles, and supplemented this search with a review of reports on Food and Drug Administration (FDA) device regulation in the US Government Accountability Office's online database. Then they consulted with both US and EU experts and also conducted Google searches to capture reports by management consultant firms. The researchers included only those studies that reported empirical data, either qualitative or quantitative, about the characteristics, performance metrics, or effectiveness of device evaluation or post-market oversight in the US or EU.
Using these methods the researchers identified nine studies that focused on pre-market evaluation and timing, eight studies of device recalls, and three surveys of device manufacturers. Because of the variable quality and lack of outcomes from these studies and reports, the researchers concluded that these studies offered only limited insights into either the US or EU systems. But the available evidence does suggest that in the US, the FDA could improve oversight of device approval, for example, by following up on its commitment to reclassify high-risk medical devices and improve post-market surveillance of devices that are approved on the basis of limited data. The researchers also suggest that using recalls to measure the safety record of individual devices or classes of devices is flawed, as particular devices may be over- or underrepresented in recall data depending on the frequency of their use, design complexity, and the clinical manifestations of malfunction. In the EU, apart from a few studies addressing the timing of approval, the researchers found almost no robust data on device regulation. Some case reports suggested substantial dangers to patients in the EU from devices approved on the basis of limited data, but the researchers could not systematically compare the quality of studies used for device approval or post-approval safety outcomes between the EU and US, mainly because of the lack of transparency among the EU regulators (Notified Bodies).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that few studies have quantitatively assessed medical device regulation in either the US or EU, but the existing studies examined in this review suggest that policy reforms are necessary for both device approval and post-market evaluation of performance, including improving classification of devices in the US and promoting transparency and postmarket oversight in the EU. However, assessment of regulatory performance in both the US and EU is limited by lack of data on post-approval safety outcomes. Any changes to medical device approval and post-marketing systems should be accompanied by ongoing research and evaluation to ensure that there is an improved assessment of what works in either setting.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Sanket Dhruva and Rita Redberg
The WHO website has a comprehensive topic section on medical devices
Information on medical devices is also available from the FDA and the European Commission
PMCID: PMC3418047  PMID: 22912563
10.  A randomized controlled trial of fluoxetine in the treatment of cocaine dependence among methadone-maintained patients 
Cocaine abuse and dependence continue to be widespread. Currently there are no pharmacotherapies shown to be effective in the treatment of cocaine dependence.
A 33-week outpatient clinical trial of fluoxetine (60 mg/day, p.o.) for cocaine dependence was conducted that incorporated abstinence-contingent voucher incentives. Participants (n=145) were both cocaine and opioid dependent and treated with methadone. A stratified randomization procedure assigned subjects to one of four conditions: fluoxetine plus voucher incentives (FV), placebo plus voucher incentives (PV), fluoxetine without vouchers (F), and placebo without vouchers (P). Dosing of fluoxetine/placebo was double blind. Primary outcomes were treatment retention and cocaine use based on thrice-weekly urine testing.
The PV group had the longest treatment retention (mean of 165 days) and lowest probability of cocaine use. The adjusted predicted probabilities of cocaine use were: 65% in the P group, 60% in the F group, 56% in the FV group, and 31% in the PV group.
Fluoxetine was not efficacious in reducing cocaine use in patients dually dependent on cocaine and opioids.
PMCID: PMC3078567  PMID: 21266301
Cocaine; Contingency management; Fluoxetine; Methadone
11.  Delay Discounting is Associated with Treatment Response among Cocaine-Dependent Outpatients 
Delay discounting (DD) describes the rate at which reinforcers lose value as the temporal delay to their receipt increases. Steeper discounting has been positively associated with vulnerability to substance use disorders, including cocaine use disorders.
In the present study, we examined whether DD of hypothetical monetary reinforcers is associated with the duration of cocaine abstinence achieved among cocaine-dependent outpatients.
Participants were 36 adults who were participating in a randomized controlled trial examining the efficacy of voucher-based contingency management (CM) using low-magnitude (N = 18) or high-magnitude (N = 18) voucher monetary values.
DD was associated with the number of continuous weeks of cocaine abstinence achieved, even after adjusting for treatment condition during the initial 12-week (t(33) = 2.48, p = .045) and entire recommended 24-week of treatment (t(33) = 2.40, p = .022). Participants who exhibited steeper discounting functions achieved shorter periods of abstinence in the Low-magnitude voucher condition (12-week: t(16) = 2.48, p = .025; 24-week: t(16) = 2.68, p = .017), but not in the High-magnitude voucher condition (12-week: t(16) = 0.51, p = .618; 24-week: t(16) = 1.08, p = .298), although the interaction between DD and treatment condition was not significant (12-week: t(32) = −1.12, p = .271; 24-week: t(32) = −0.37, p = .712).
These results provide further evidence on associations between DD and treatment response and extend those observations to a new clinical population (i.e., cocaine-dependent outpatients), while also suggesting that a more intensive intervention like the High-magnitude CM condition may diminish this negative relationship between DD and treatment response.
PMCID: PMC3476946  PMID: 21517195
Temporal discounting; delay discounting; cocaine dependence; contingency management; vouchers; treatment response
12.  Efficacy of buspirone for attenuating cocaine and methamphetamine reinstatement in rats 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2013;129(3):210-216.
There are no approved pharmacotherapies for preventing psychomotor stimulant relapse. The operant reinstatement model has been suggested as a screen for identifying candidate medications. The present study examined if the anxiolytic buspirone could attenuate reinstatement of extinguished responding in Long-Evans rats that previously self-administered intravenous cocaine or methamphetamine.
Rats were trained in 2-h daily sessions to self-administer 0.5 mg/kg cocaine or 0.1 mg/kg methamphetamine infusions followed by 12 days of instrumental extinction. Reinstatement was evoked by 17 mg/kg i.p. cocaine primes or response-contingent cocaine-paired cues in cocaine-reinforced rats, and by 1 mg/kg i.p. methamphetamine primes or response-contingent methamphetamine-paired cues in methamphetamine-reinforced rats.
Buspirone (1 and 3 mg/kg) significantly (p<0.05) attenuated cocaine cue but not cocaine prime reinstatement. Buspirone (1 and 3 mg/kg) also significantly attenuated methamphetamine cue reinstatement. Buspirone (3 mg/kg) significantly attenuated methamphetamine prime reinstatement. During all reinstatement tests, 3 mg/kg buspirone reduced levels of inactive lever pressing relative to those of vehicle, significantly so during the cocaine cue-induced reinstatement tests.
Given the complexity of buspirone's neuropharmacology consisting of serotonin 5-HT1A receptor partial agonist activity, and dopamine D2, D3 and D4 receptor antagonist effects, it is uncertain which of these activities or their combination is responsible for the present results. Overall, these results suggest that buspirone may reduce the likelihood of relapse to cocaine and methamphetamine use under some conditions, although this speculation must be interpreted with caution given buspirone's similar potency to attenuate inactive-lever responding.
PMCID: PMC3628295  PMID: 23374566
reinstatement; cocaine; methamphetamine; buspirone; rats; self-administration
13.  Effects of Oral Methamphetamine on Cocaine Use: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2008;101(1-2):34-41.
No medication is currently approved for the treatment of cocaine dependence, but several preclinical and clinical reports suggest agonist-like medications, e.g. amphetamine analogues, may be a productive strategy for medication development.
This current proof-of-concept study sought to evaluate the safety, tolerability, and effectiveness of methamphetamine as a candidate treatment for cocaine dependence.
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study served to evaluate three treatment conditions in 82 cocaine-dependent individuals: (1) placebo (0 mg, 6×/day; n = 27), (2) immediate release (IR) methamphetamine (5 mg, 6×/day; n = 30), (3) sustained release (SR) methamphetamine (30 mg first pill, 1×/day; 0 mg 5×/day; n = 25). The study employed a sequential, two-phase design (i.e., 4 weeks of medication and counseling followed by 4 weeks of medication/counseling plus a contingency management procedure).
Both preparation forms of methamphetamine were well tolerated, with similar retention to placebo (0 mg, 33%; 30 mg IR, 30%, 30 mg SR, 32%). Methamphetamine SR was associated with decreased sleep and increased weight loss. Medication adherence rates were high for the first dose of the day (95%), while adherence for subsequent capsules was lower. Those in the SR condition exhibited consistently lower rates of cocaine-positive urine samples (0 mg, 60%; 30 mg IR, 66%, 30 mg SR, 29%), p<0.0001, and reported the greatest reduction in craving for cocaine, p<0.05.
SR methamphetamine significantly reduced cocaine use and craving. Additional research is warranted to develop and evaluate agonist-like medications that may effectively treat cocaine dependence.
PMCID: PMC2742691  PMID: 19058926
cocaine; methamphetamine; dextroamphetamine; agonist-like treatment
14.  Employment-based abstinence reinforcement following inpatient detoxification in HIV-positive opioid and/or cocaine-dependent patients 
Employment-based reinforcement interventions have been used to promote abstinence from drugs among chronically unemployed injection drug users. The current study utilized an employment-based reinforcement intervention to promote opiate and cocaine abstinence among opioid-dependent, HIV-positive participants who had recently completed a brief inpatient detoxification. Participants (n=46) were randomly assigned to an Abstinence & Work group that was required to provide negative urine samples in order to enter the workplace and earn incentives for work (n=16), a Work Only group that was permitted to enter the workplace and earn incentives independent of drug use (n=15), and a No Voucher control group that did not receive any incentives for working (n=15) over a 26-week period. The primary outcome was urinalysis-confirmed opiate, cocaine, and combined opiate/cocaine abstinence. Participants were 78% male and 89% African American. Results showed no significant between-group differences in urinalysis-verified drug abstinence or HIV risk behaviors during the 6-month intervention. The Work Only group had significantly greater workplace attendance and worked more minutes per day when compared to the No Voucher group. Several features of the study design, including the lack of an induction period, setting the threshold for entering the workplace too high by requiring immediate abstinence from several drugs, and increasing the risk of relapse by providing a brief detoxification that was not supported by any continued pharmacological intervention, likely prevented the workplace from becoming established as a reinforcer that could be used to promote drug abstinence. However, increases in workplace attendance have important implications for adult training programs.
PMCID: PMC4332775  PMID: 24490712
HIV; contingency management; therapeutic workplace; incentive; injection drug use
15.  Psychological treatments for stimulant misuse, comparing and contrasting those for amphetamine dependence and those for cocaine dependence 
Current opinion in psychiatry  2009;22(3):263-268.
Purpose of review
The aim is to compare and contrast psychological treatments for amphetamine and cocaine dependence.
Recent findings
Stimulant dependence, in the form of cocaine or amphetamine/methamphetamine dependence, is prevalent worldwide, and their ratio may vary across different countries and regions of countries. The treatment of stimulant disorders has greatly advanced in recent years, and scientific evaluation of behavioral therapies, using randomized clinical trials designs and a stage-wise approach, have demonstrated the safety and efficacy of interventions. Psychological interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy and contingency management for cocaine and methamphetamines use disorders are well tolerated and moderately effective in achieving drug abstinence. There is evidence that contingency management interventions can help to improve retention in treatment and, in turn, other treatment outcomes. Although there are important differences in the neuropsychiatric and medical consequences of cocaine and amphetamine use disorders, there is currently no evidence for a differential treatment effect of any psychosocial treatment in the management of these disorders.
As there are no Food and Drug Administration-approved medications for the treatment of these disorders, psychological interventions form the basis of their treatment. More research is needed to address the specific psychosocial needs of cocaine and amphetamine-dependent individuals in order to improve their treatment outcomes.
PMCID: PMC2825894  PMID: 19307968
amphetamine; behavioral; cocaine; methamphetamine; treatment
16.  Pharmacotherapy of Methamphetamine Addiction: An Update 
Methamphetamine dependence is a serious public health problem worldwide for which there are no approved pharmacological treatments. Psychotherapy is still the mainstay of treatment; however, relapse rates are high. The search for effective pharmacological treatment has intensified in the last decade. This review will highlight progress in pharmacological interventions to treat methamphetamine dependence as well as explore new pharmacological targets. Published data from clinical trials for stimulant addiction were searched using PubMed and summarized, as well as highlights from a recent symposium on methamphetamine pharmacotherapy presented at the ISAM 2006 meeting, including interim analysis data from an ongoing D-amphetamine study in Australia. Early pilot data are encouraging for administering D-amphetamine and methylphenidate as treatment for heavy amphetamine users. Abilify at 15 mg/day dose increased amphetamine use in an outpatient pilot study. Sertraline, ondansetron, baclofen, tyrosine, and imipramine were ineffective in proof-of-concept studies. Development of pharmacotherapy for methamphetamine dependence is still in an early stage. Data suggesting D-amphetamine and methylphenidate as effective pharmacotherapy for methamphetamine addiction will need to be confirmed by larger trials. Preclinical data suggest that use of GVG, CB1 antagonist, and lobeline are also promising therapeutic strategies.
PMCID: PMC2597382  PMID: 19042205
Methamphetamine; pharmacotherapy; bupropion; aripiprazole; methylphenidate; D-amphetamine
17.  Contingency Management and Levodopa-Carbidopa for Cocaine Treatment: A Comparison of Three Behavioral Targets 
New data support use of levodopa pharmacotherapy with behavioral contingency management (CM) as one efficacious combination in cocaine dependence disorder treatment. A potential mechanism of the combined treatment effects may be related to dopamine-induced enhancement of the saliency of contingently delivered reinforcers. Evidence to support this mechanism was sought by evaluating levodopa-enhancing effects across distinct CM conditions that varied in behavioral targets. A total of 136 treatment-seeking, cocaine dependent subjects participated in this 12-week, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of levodopa (vs. placebo) administered in combination with one of three behavioral CM conditions. In the CM-URINE condition, subjects received cash-valued vouchers contingent on cocaine-negative urine toxicology results. In the CM-ATTEND condition, the same voucher schedule was contingent on attending thrice weekly clinic visits. In the CM-MEDICATION condition, the same voucher schedule was contingent on Medication Event Monitoring Systems- and riboflavin-based evidence of pill-taking behavior. Primary outcomes associated with each CM target behavior were analyzed using generalized linear mixed models for repeated outcomes. CM responding in the CM-ATTENDANCE and CM-MEDICATION conditions showed orderly effects, with each condition producing corresponding changes in targeted behaviors, regardless of medication condition. In contrast, CM responding in the CM-URINE condition was moderated by medication, with levodopa-treated subjects more likely to submit cocaine-negative urines. These findings specify the optimal target behavior for CM when used in combination with levodopa pharmacotherapy.
PMCID: PMC3164487  PMID: 20545388
contingency management; levodopa; medication compliance; pharmacotherapy; behavior therapy
18.  Buprenorphine Medication versus Voucher Contingencies in Promoting Abstinence from Opioids and Cocaine 
This study compared the relative efficacy of two contingency management (CM) interventions versus standard care. During a 12-week intervention, opioid dependent participants (N = 120) were maintained on thrice-a-week (M, W, F) buprenorphine plus therapist and computer-based counseling. They were randomized to receive: (a) medication contingencies (MC= thrice weekly dosing schedule vs. daily attendance and single-day 50% dose reduction imposed upon submission of an opioid and/or cocaine positive urine sample); (b) voucher contingency (VC=escalating schedule for opioid and/or cocaine negative samples with reset for drug-positive samples); or (c) standard care (SC), with no programmed consequences for urinalysis results. Voucher reinforcement resulted in better 12-week retention (85%) compared to contingent medication (58%; p=0.009), but neither differed from standard care (76% retained). The groups submitted a similar overall percentage of opioid and cocaine-free urines (MC = 79%, VC = 76%, SC = 69%). After adjusting for baseline differences in employment, the medication contingency group achieved 1.5 more continuous weeks of combined opioid/cocaine abstinence than standard care (p=0.030), while the voucher group had 2 more total weeks of abstinence than standard care (p=0.048). Drug use results suggest that the two interventions were both efficacious, with effects seen primarily in opioid rather than cocaine test results. Findings should be interpreted in light of the greater attrition associated with medication-based contingencies versus the greater monetary costs of voucher-based contingencies.
PMCID: PMC2852314  PMID: 19653788
buprenorphine; cocaine; community reinforcement approach; contingency management; opiate or opioid dependence
19.  Novel pharmacotherapeutic treatments for cocaine addiction 
BMC Medicine  2011;9:119.
Cocaine is a stimulant that leads to the rapid accumulation of catecholamines and serotonin in the brain due to prevention of their re-uptake into the neuron that released the neurotransmitter. Cocaine dependence is a public health concern and cause of significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. At present, there are no approved medications for the treatment of this devastating illness, and behavioral interventions have proven to be of limited use. However, there have been a number of recent trials testing promising agents including dopamine agonists, GABAergic medications and the cocaine vaccine. Here we discuss the most recent human clinical trials of potential medications for treatment of cocaine dependence, as well as pre-clinical studies for another promising agent, levo tetrahydropalmatine. Examination of these recent findings shows promise for GABAergic medications and the cocaine vaccine, as well as unique medications such as disulfiram, whose mechanism remains to be determined. Future work may also confirm specific subgroups of patients for treatment response based on clinical characteristics, biomarkers and pharmacogenetics. This review highlights the need for further, bigger studies in order to determine optimal clinical usage.
PMCID: PMC3216852  PMID: 22047090
20.  Anti-relapse medications: Preclinical models for drug addiction treatment 
Pharmacology & therapeutics  2009;124(2):235-247.
Addiction is a chronic relapsing brain disease and treatment of relapse to drug-seeking is considered the most challenging part of treating addictive disorders. Relapse can be modeled in laboratory animals using reinstatement paradigms, whereby behavioral responding for a drug is extinguished and then reinstated by different trigger factors, such as environmental cues or stress. In this review, we first describe currently used animal models of relapse, different relapse triggering factors, and the validity of this model to assess relapse in humans. We further summarize the growing body of pharmacological interventions that have shown some promise in treating relapse to psychostimulant addiction. Moreover, we present an overview on the drugs tested in cocaine or methamphetamine addicts and examine the overlap of existing preclinical and clinical data. Finally, based on recent advances in our understanding of the neurobiology of relapse and published preclinical data, we highlight the most promising areas for future anti-relapse medication development.
PMCID: PMC2889132  PMID: 19683019
cocaine; drug screening; methamphetamine; reinstatement; relapse; self-administration
21.  Dysregulation of Diurnal Cortisol Secretion Affects Abstinence Induction during a lead-in period of a Clinical Trial for Depressed Cocaine-Dependent Patients 
Background and Objective
Hypothesizing that stress dysregulation may worsen cocaine dependence, we investigated the effect of diurnal cortisol secretion profile, suppression of cortisol secretion, and total cortisol secretion on retention, abstinence-based voucher earnings, days of cravings, and mood status of participants at the end of a 2-week medication-free lead-in prior to randomization in a clinical trial of mirtazapine (60 mg vs. placebo) for depressed cocaine-dependent patients.
We measured saliva cortisol levels at 9am, 2pm, and 5pm on the first two consecutive days of a 2-week medication-free lead-in period. Results from saliva samples were used to estimate the total daily level of cortisol, the diurnal profile of secretion (typical vs. atypical), and response to dexamethasone suppression (0.1 mg). Seventy-seven patients collected saliva samples at baseline, and 65 (85%) were suitable for profile analysis.
Patients with typical profiles (52%) collected significantly more abstinence-based voucher earnings during the lead-in (U = 299.50, p = .025). Diurnal secretion profile did not significantly affect mood status, days of craving, or retention. There were no significant effects of suppression of cortisol secretion or of total cortisol levels on any outcome measures.
In a subgroup of cocaine-dependent patients, deviation of cortisol secretion away from the homeostatic diurnal pattern was associated with reduced success at achieving early abstinence, an important determinant of treatment success.
PMCID: PMC4049414  PMID: 24313234
stress; cocaine; addiction; cortisol; clinical trial; drug treatment
22.  Computerized Behavior Therapy for Opioid-Dependent Outpatients: A Randomized Controlled Trial 
We evaluated the efficacy of an interactive, computer-based behavioral therapy intervention, grounded in the community reinforcement approach (CRA) plus voucher-based contingency management model of behavior therapy. Our randomized, controlled trial was conducted at a university-based research clinic. Participants comprised 135 volunteer adult outpatients who met DSM-IV criteria for opioid dependence. All participants received maintenance treatment with buprenorphine and were randomly assigned to one of three treatments: (1) therapist-delivered CRA treatment with vouchers, (2) computer-assisted CRA treatment with vouchers, or (3) standard treatment. The therapist-delivered and computer-assisted CRA plus vouchers interventions produced comparable weeks of continuous opioid and cocaine abstinence (mean = 7.98 and 7.78, respectively) and significantly greater weeks of abstinence than the standard intervention (mean = 4.69; p<.05), yet participants in the computer-assisted CRA condition had over 80% of their intervention delivered by an interactive computer program. The comparable efficacy obtained with computer-assisted and therapist-delivered therapy may enable more widespread dissemination of the evidence-based CRA plus vouchers intervention in a manner that is cost-effective and ensures treatment fidelity.
PMCID: PMC2746734  PMID: 18489017
Computerized treatment; opioid dependence; buprenorphine; cognitive-behavior therapy; controlled trial
23.  Modulation Of The Endo-Cannabinoid System: Therapeutic Potential Against Cocaine Dependence 
Dependence on cocaine is still a main unresolved medical and social concern, and in spite of research efforts, no pharmacological therapy against cocaine dependence is yet available. Recent studies have shown that the endocannabinoid system participates in specific stages and aspects of drug dependence in general, and some of this evidence suggests an involvement of the cannabinoid system in cocaine effects. For example, cocaine administration has been shown to alter brain endocannabinoid levels, and the endocannabinoid system has been involved in long-term modifications of brain processes that might play a role in neuro/behavioral effects of psychostimulant drugs like cocaine. Human studies show that marijuana dependence is frequently associated with cocaine dependence, and that the cannabinoid receptor CNR1 gene polymorphism might be related to cocaine addiction. This article will review the main papers in the field showing how a modulation of different components of the cannabinoid system might interact with some of the neurobiological/behavioral effects of cocaine related to its reinforcing effects, evaluated in preclinical models or in clinical settings. The goal of this review will be to provide insights into the complex picture of cocaine abuse and addiction, and to extrapolate from such endocannabinoid-cocaine interactions useful information to test the therapeutic potential of cannabinoid ligands and endocannabinoid-level enhancers against cocaine dependence for future preclinical/clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC2134985  PMID: 17945506
cannabinoids; cocaine; addiction; behavior
24.  A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of topiramate for the treatment of comorbid cocaine and alcohol dependence 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2013;133(1):94-99.
Topiramate increases GABAergic activity and antagonizes the AMPA/kainate subtype of glutamate receptors. Through these mechanisms of action, topiramate may reduce alcohol and cocaine reward and may reduce alcohol and cocaine craving. Topiramate has been shown to reduce drinking in persons with alcohol dependence, and reduce relapse in stimulant-dependent patients. The current trial was intended to test the ability of topiramate to promote cocaine and alcohol abstinence among patients addicted to both drugs.
The study was a double-blind, placebo-controlled, 13-week trial involving 170 cocaine and alcohol dependent subjects. After achieving a period of cocaine and alcohol abstinence, subjects were randomized to topiramate, 300 mg daily, or identical placebo capsules. In addition, subjects received weekly individual psychotherapy. Primary outcome measures included self-reported alcohol and cocaine use, and thrice weekly urine drug screens. Secondary outcome measures included cocaine and alcohol craving, Addiction Severity Index results, cocaine withdrawal symptoms, and clinical global improvement ratings.
Topiramate was not better than placebo in reducing cocaine use on the a priori primary outcome measure, or in reducing alcohol use. Topiramate was not better than placebo in reducing cocaine craving. Topiramate-treated subjects, compared to placebo-treated subjects, were more likely to be retained in treatment and more likely to be abstinent from cocaine during the last three weeks of the trial. Subjects who entered treatment with more severe cocaine withdrawal symptoms responded better to topiramate.
Topiramate plus cognitive behavioral therapy may reduce cocaine use for some patients with comorbid cocaine and alcohol dependence.
PMCID: PMC3786029  PMID: 23810644
topiramate; cocaine; alcohol; clinical trial; placebo
25.  Long term substitution treatment (maintenance treatment) of opioid dependent persons 
Health political background
Methadone substitution treatment in Germany is introduced in 1988 in the framework of a scientific pilot study in North Rhein Westphalia. Recent statistics show that by now a broad offer of substitution treatment exists. From 1 June 2002 to 31 December 2003 113,000 substitution treatments have been recorded as being started of which around 56,000 have been recorded as ongoing treatments by 1 December 2003.
Scientific background
Substitution treatment (treatment of opioid-dependent persons using substitution substances) is one part of addiction treatment. Its goals are harm reduction and the stabilisation of opioid dependent persons. Integration of opioid-dependent persons in a treatment-setting, reduction of consumption of psychoactive substances, reduction of risk behaviour (primarily related to infectious diseases), decrease of mortality and improvements concerning the social, psychic and physic situation are seen as a success of substitution treatment as maintenance therapy.
Research questions
The aim of this HTA report is to investigate which indicators can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of substitution treatment. Based on these indicators an evaluation of the medical, social and economical benefit of substitution treatment - also in relation to abstinence oriented treatment - is carried out.
A systematic literature search was performed in 31 international databases which yielded 2451 articles with publication date between 1995 and February 2005.
After a twofold selection process 32 publications were included for assessment and 276 publications were used as background literature. Despite serious restrictions due to selection bias and dropout in most studies focusing on substitution treatment, reduction of consumption of illegal opioids, reduction of risk behaviour, criminal behaviour, mortality and incidence of HIV can be seen as an empirically proven success of substitution treatment. Concerning the improvement of life and health situation the results of the studies are contradictory. The results show that retention rate of substitution treatment is higher than retention rate of abstinence oriented treatment. Regarding economical aspects substitution treatment is efficient in avoiding secondary illnesses (infections) and decreasing criminality. From the perspective of medical ethics substitution treatment as well as medical prescription of heroin is in principle acceptable.
Discussion and conclusions
Based on these results, it can be recommended that substitution treatment in principle should be made available for all opioid dependent persons. The decision whether substitution treatment or another treatment (e. g. abstinence oriented treatment) is more promising has to take into account the individual situation of the client. In addition a combination of substitution treatment and abstinence oriented treatment might be promising although there is a lack of studies about this approach. In any case the decision concerning a certain form of treatment should leave aside pseudo-moralic concerns and should be made on the base of established medical ethic principles - like the interest of the patient - taking into account the specific situation of the client.
PMCID: PMC3011334  PMID: 21289938

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