Sheldon noted that Probuphine could limit the risk of an addict stopping the buprenorphine dosage one day and relapsing to illegal drugs, perhaps fatally.
"Every time somebody uses there's a chance to die, especially if they've been clean," Sheldon said. "Their brain no longer knows what they're used to, and the same dosage that they used to get high could kill them."
And with Probuphine, Sheldon said, addicts "no longer have to be reminded to have to take your medicine" every day. "You can focus on different parts of your recovery," she said.
"What patients have is ... peace of mind and freedom. They don't get looks from the pharmacist [when they fill their prescription]. They don't have worry about their boyfriend stealing it or that kind of thing," Sheldon said.
Sheldon said doctors would be more inclined to prescribe implants because their concerns about diversion of buprenorphine would be mitigated.
"Just by coming on to the market, there's going to easily be 2,000 or 3,000 doctors that haven't taken patients and would be doing so," she said. "That in itself is going to expand the number of patients."
Sarah Wilson, a 40-year-old mom of four from Jacksonsville, Florida, said that buprenorphine "has been a lifesaver" for her. She also said the implant was both more convenient and safer for her and her family.
Wilson suffered serious spinal damage in 2008 when a suicidal man rammed his car at 65 mpg into Wilson's vehicle containing her and two of her children. After losing her secretarial job and her health insurance, Wilson was no longer able to afford the pricey specialty injections that had successfully managed her chronic pain.
But her doctor told her she could afford hydrocodone, a powerful painkiller pill.
Wilson began taking hydrocodone regularly in 2010, and "I realized I had a dependency in 2012."
"I was taking 300 milligrams a day," she said. "My recommended dosage was 90 milligrams a day."
Wilson fed her habit by buying hydrocodone from friends, and paid for the pills in part by stealing from her father, a retired police officer father, and her mother, a nurse. Although she knew what she was doing was illegal and wrong, her fear of withdrawal and of being in pain without medication kept her using hydrocodone.
She admitted her secret addiction after her parents voiced their suspicions — which were proven false — that Wilson's husband was the one stealing from them. But she told them "I can't go into detox. I said I can't face the pain of detox and the daily pain of my injuries."