Healthbeat: A digital assist to help treat opioid misuse disorder


WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A tool aimed at fighting the opioid epidemic is finished. Pennsylvania’s opioid disaster declaration ended Wednesday after state lawmakers didn’t extend it.

While that tool disappears, another could be on the horizon.

That tool is a way to help people struggling with opioid misuse connect with counseling and support they need. And that help is as simple as having an internet connection.

Could the key for some to overcome opioid misuse disorder lie in what is called digital therapeutic treatment? Pharmaceutical company Orexo believes so. A digital therapeutic it’s pursuing called modia is an online resource which the company claims can help fill the gaps.

“The good news with respect to the opioid epidemic is that we can effectively treat it. So, we have good medicine that can help people in the recovery. But the medicines work best when combined with psychosocial therapy,” said Executive Director Joseph Volpicelli, MD, Ph.D., Institute of Addiction Medicine.

Dr. Volpicelli is renowned for his research on how best to treat substance use disorder, including through use of psychosocial therapy. Getting government approval to offer it online is something he believes can be a real difference maker.

“And so people can get their psychosocial therapy with the program with the digital therapeutic and take their medicine and get the optimal care,” Dr. Volpicelli said.

Optimal care is something experts say is sorely lacking for too many people in a life struggle with opioid misuse disorder. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Commonwealth experienced a nearly six percent increase in the number of fatal opioid overdoses statewide in 2020 compared to the previous year. In Luzerne County alone, the spike was more than 19%.

Orexo is conducting a study to enroll an estimated 400 participants in 35 states to evaluate the efficacy of the treatment plan under the name modia. Dr. Volpicelli believes modia can also break down the stigma barrier that often prevents patients from getting the treatment they need.

“People find that there is less stigma associated with using a device like that. So there are many advantages to having a digital therapeutic.

The pivotal, modia study is expected to last six months. The data will then be presented to the FDA for review to determine if it should be approved.

Learn more about this treatment method

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