BY: Dan Mangan, CNBC

The first-ever implant used to treat opioid addiction won approval from federal regulators Thursday, providing yet another weapon in the battle against an epidemic of opioid use.

The Probuphine device approved by the Food and Drug Administrationcontains the medication buprenorphine. That drug in its oral form over the past 14 years has become a popular tool for eliminating opioid withdrawal symptoms in people addicted to heroin and prescription painkillers.

Probuphine, which will be available only by prescription, is being pitched by its backers as more convenient than traditional forms of buprepnorphine, and as a protection from having a user’s buprenorphine diverted to someone else, stolen or accidentally taken by a child.

The FDA’s approval was for patients who have already stabilized their dependency by taking 8 mg or less per day of buprenorphine, but doctors can, and do, often prescribe medications for off-label uses, which in this case would include new users of buprenorphine.

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