Spotlight on buprenorphine/naloxone in the treatment of opioid dependence.
Author(s): Orman JS, Keating GM
Affiliation(s): Adis, Auckland, New Zealand.
Publication date & source: 2009-10-01, CNS Drugs., 23(10):899-902.
Publication type: Review
Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) comprises the partial micro-opioid receptor agonist buprenorphine in combination with the opioid antagonist naloxone in a 4 : 1 ratio. When buprenorphine/naloxone is taken sublingually as prescribed, the naloxone exerts no clinically significant effect, leaving the opioid agonist effects of buprenorphine to predominate. However, when buprenorphine/naloxone is parenterally administered in patients physically dependent on full agonist opioids, the opioid antagonism of naloxone causes withdrawal effects, thus reducing the abuse potential of the drug combination. Buprenorphine/naloxone is an effective maintenance therapy for opioid dependence and has generally similar efficacy to methadone, although more data are needed. Less frequent dispensing of buprenorphine/naloxone (e.g. thrice weekly) does not appear to compromise efficacy and can improve patient satisfaction. Buprenorphine/naloxone is more effective than clonidine as a medically supervised withdrawal therapy. Moreover, buprenorphine/naloxone is a generally well tolerated medically supervised withdrawal and maintenance treatment. Thus, sublingual buprenorphine/naloxone is a valuable pharmacotherapy for the treatment of opioid dependence.