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Butrans (Buprenorphine) - Warnings and Precautions



Addiction, Abuse, and Misuse
BUTRANS® exposes patients and other users to the risks of opioid addiction, abuse, and misuse, which can lead to overdose and death. Assess each patient’s risk prior to prescribing BUTRANS, and monitor all patients regularly for the development of these behaviors or conditions [see Warnings and Precautions and Overdosage].

Life-Threatening Respiratory Depression
Serious, life-threatening, or fatal respiratory depression may occur with use of BUTRANS. Monitor for respiratory depression, especially during initiation of BUTRANS or following a dose increase. Misuse or abuse of BUTRANS by chewing, swallowing, snorting or injecting buprenorphine extracted from the transdermal system will result in the uncontrolled delivery of buprenorphine and pose a significant risk of overdose and death [see Warnings and Precautions ].

Accidental Exposure
Accidental exposure to even one dose of BUTRANS, especially by children, can result in a fatal overdose of buprenorphine [see Warnings and Precautions].

Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome
Prolonged use of BUTRANS during pregnancy can result in neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome, which may be life-threatening if not recognized and treated, and requires management according to protocols developed by neonatology experts. If opioid use is required for a prolonged period in a pregnant woman, advise the patient of the risk of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome and ensure that appropriate treatment will be available [see Warnings and Precautions].



Addiction, Abuse, and Misuse

BUTRANS contains buprenorphine, a Schedule III controlled substance. As an opioid, BUTRANS exposes users to the risks of addiction, abuse, and misuse. As modified-release products such as BUTRANS deliver the opioid over an extended period of time, there is a greater risk for overdose and death, due to the larger amount of buprenorphine present.

Although the risk of addiction in any individual is unknown, it can occur in patients appropriately prescribed BUTRANS and in those who obtain the drug illicitly. Addiction can occur at recommended doses and if the drug is misused or abused [see Drug Abuse and Dependence (9)].

Assess each patient’s risk for opioid addiction, abuse, or misuse prior to prescribing BUTRANS, and monitor all patients receiving BUTRANS for the development of these behaviors or conditions. Risks are increased in patients with a personal or family history of substance abuse (including drug or alcohol abuse or addiction) or mental illness (e.g., major depression). The potential for these risks should not, however, prevent the proper management of pain in any given patient. Patients at increased risk may be prescribed modified-release opioid formulations such as BUTRANS, but use in such patients necessitates intensive counseling about the risks and proper use of BUTRANS, along with intensive monitoring for signs of addiction, abuse, or misuse.

Abuse or misuse of BUTRANS by placing it in the mouth, chewing it, swallowing it, or using it in ways other than indicated may cause choking, overdose and death [see Overdosage ].

Opioid agonists such as BUTRANS are sought by drug abusers and people with addiction disorders and are subject to criminal diversion. Consider these risks when prescribing or dispensing BUTRANS. Strategies to reduce these risks include prescribing the drug in the smallest appropriate quantity and advising the patient on the proper disposal of unused drug [see Patient Counseling Information]. Contact local state professional licensing board or state controlled substances authority for information on how to prevent and detect abuse or diversion of this product.

Life-ThreateningRespiratory Depression

Serious, life-threatening, or fatal respiratory depression has been reported with the use of modified-release opioids, even when used as recommended. Respiratory depression, from opioid use, if not immediately recognized and treated, may lead to respiratory arrest and death. Management of respiratory depression may include close observation, supportive measures, and use of opioid antagonists, depending on the patient’s clinical status [see Overdosage ]. Carbon dioxide (CO2) retention from opioid-induced respiratory depression can exacerbate the sedating effects of opioids.

While serious, life-threatening, or fatal respiratory depression can occur at any time during the use of BUTRANS, the risk is greatest during the initiation of therapy or following a dose increase. Closely monitor patients for respiratory depression when initiating therapy with BUTRANS and following dose increases.

To reduce the risk of respiratory depression, proper dosing and titration of BUTRANS are essential [see Dosage and Administration (2)]. Overestimating the BUTRANS dose when converting patients from another opioid product can result in fatal overdose with the first dose.

Accidental exposure to BUTRANS, especially in children, can result in respiratory depression and death due to an overdose of buprenorphine.

Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome

Prolonged use of BUTRANS during pregnancy can result in withdrawal signs in the neonate. Neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome, unlike opioid withdrawal syndrome in adults, may be life-threatening if not recognized and treated, and requires management according to protocols developed by neonatology experts. If opioid use is required for a prolonged period in a pregnant woman, advise the patient of the risk of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome and ensure that appropriate treatment will be available.

Neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome presents as irritability, hyperactivity and abnormal sleep pattern, high pitched cry, tremor, vomiting, diarrhea and failure to gain weight. The onset, duration, and severity of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome vary based on the specific opioid used, duration of use, timing and amount of last maternal use, and rate of elimination of the drug by the newborn.

Interactions with Central Nervous System Depressants

Hypotension, profound sedation, coma, respiratory depression, and death may result if BUTRANS is used concomitantly with alcohol or other (CNS) depressants (e.g., sedatives, anxiolytics, hypnotics, neuroleptics, other opioids).

When considering the use of BUTRANS in a patient taking a CNS depressant, assess the duration of use of the CNS depressant and the patient’s response, including the degree of tolerance that has developed to CNS depression. Additionally, evaluate the patient’s use of alcohol or illicit drugs that cause CNS depression. If the decision to begin BUTRANS therapy is made, start with BUTRANS 5 mcg/hour patch, monitor patients for signs of sedation and respiratory depression and consider using a lower dose of the concomitant CNS depressant [see Drug Interactions ].

Use in Elderly, Cachectic, and Debilitated Patients

Life-threatening respiratory depression is more likely to occur in elderly, cachectic, or debilitated patients as they may have altered pharmacokinetics or altered clearance compared to younger, healthier patients. Monitor such patients closely, particularly when initiating and titrating BUTRANS and when BUTRANS is given concomitantly with other drugs that depress respiration [see Warnings and Precautions].

Use in Patients with Chronic Pulmonary Disease

Monitor patients with significant chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or cor pulmonale, and patients having a substantially decreased respiratory reserve, hypoxia, hypercapnia, or pre-existing respiratory depression for respiratory depression, particularly when initiating therapy and titrating with BUTRANS, as in these patients, even usual therapeutic doses of BUTRANS may decrease respiratory drive to the point of apnea [see Warnings and Precautions ]. Consider the use of alternative non-opioid analgesics in these patients if possible.

QTc Prolongation

A positive-controlled study of the effects of BUTRANS on the QTc interval in healthy subjects demonstrated no clinically meaningful effect at a BUTRANS dose of 10 mcg/hour; however, a BUTRANS dose of 40 mcg/hour (given as two BUTRANS 20 mcg/hour Transdermal Systems) was observed to prolong the QTc interval [see Dosage and Administration and Clinical Pharmacology].

Consider these observations in clinical decisions when prescribing BUTRANS to patients with hypokalemia or clinically unstable cardiac disease, including: unstable atrial fibrillation, symptomatic bradycardia, unstable congestive heart failure, or active myocardial ischemia. Avoid the use of BUTRANS in patients with a history of Long QT Syndrome or an immediate family member with this condition, or those taking Class IA antiarrhythmic medications (e.g., quinidine, procainamide, disopyramide) or Class III antiarrhythmic medications (e.g., sotalol, amiodarone, dofetilide).

Hypotensive Effects

BUTRANS may cause severe hypotension including orthostatic hypotension and syncope in ambulatory patients. There is an increased risk in patients whose ability to maintain blood pressure has already been compromised by a reduced blood volume or concurrent administration of certain CNS depressant drugs (e.g., phenothiazines or general anesthetics) [see Drug Interactions ]. Monitor these patients for signs of hypotension after initiating or titrating the dose of BUTRANS.

Use in Patientswith Head Injury or Increased Intracranial Pressure

Monitor patients taking BUTRANS who may be susceptible to the intracranial effects of CO2 retention (e.g., those with evidence of increased intracranial pressure or brain tumors) for signs of sedation and respiratory depression, particularly when initiating therapy with BUTRANS. BUTRANS may reduce respiratory drive, and the resultant CO2 retention can further increase intracranial pressure. Opioids may also obscure the clinical course in a patient with a head injury.

Avoid the use of BUTRANS in patients with impaired consciousness or coma.


Although not observed in BUTRANS chronic pain clinical trials, cases of cytolytic hepatitis and hepatitis with jaundice have been observed in individuals receiving sublingual buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid dependence, both in clinical trials and in post-marketing adverse event reports. The spectrum of abnormalities ranges from transient asymptomatic elevations in hepatic transaminases to case reports of hepatic failure, hepatic necrosis, hepatorenal syndrome, and hepatic encephalopathy. In many cases, the presence of pre-existing liver enzyme abnormalities, infection with hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus, concomitant usage of other potentially hepatotoxic drugs, and ongoing injection drug abuse may have played a causative or contributory role. For patients at increased risk of hepatotoxicity (e.g., patients with a history of excessive alcohol intake, intravenous drug abuse or liver disease), obtain baseline liver enzyme levels and monitor periodically and during treatment with BUTRANS.

Application SiteSkin Reactions

In rare cases, severe application site skin reactions with signs of marked inflammation including “burn,” “discharge,” and “vesicles” have occurred. Time of onset varies, ranging from days to months following the initiation of BUTRANS treatment. Instruct patients to promptly report the development of severe application site reactions and discontinue therapy.


Cases of acute and chronic hypersensitivity to buprenorphine have been reported both in clinical trials and in the post-marketing experience. The most common signs and symptoms include rashes, hives, and pruritus. Cases of bronchospasm, angioneurotic edema, and anaphylactic shock have been reported. A history of hypersensitivity to buprenorphine is a contraindication to the use of BUTRANS.

Application ofExternal Heat

Advise patients and their caregivers to avoid exposing the BUTRANS application site and surrounding area to direct external heat sources, such as heating pads or electric blankets, heat or tanning lamps, saunas, hot tubs, and heated water beds while wearing the system because an increase in absorption of buprenorphine may occur [see Clinical Pharmacology]. Advise patients against exposure of the BUTRANS application site and surrounding area to hot water or prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. There is a potential for temperature-dependent increases in buprenorphine released from the system resulting in possible overdose and death.

Patients with Fever

Monitor patients wearing BUTRANS systems who develop fever or increased core body temperature due to strenuous exertion for opioid side effects and adjust the BUTRANS dose if signs of respiratory or central nervous system depression occur.

Use in Patientswith Gastrointestinal Conditions

BUTRANS is contraindicated in patients with paralytic ileus. Avoid the use of BUTRANS in patients with other GI obstruction.

The buprenorphine in BUTRANS may cause spasm of the sphincter of Oddi. Monitor patients with biliary tract disease, including acute pancreatitis, for worsening symptoms. Opioids may cause increases in the serum amylase.

Use in Patientswith Convulsive or Seizure Disorders

The buprenorphine in BUTRANS may aggravate convulsions in patients with convulsive disorders, and may induce or aggravate seizures in some clinical settings. Monitor patients with a history of seizure disorders for worsened seizure control during BUTRANS therapy.

Driving and Operating Machinery

BUTRANS may impair the mental and physical abilities needed to perform potentially hazardous activities such as driving a car or operating machinery. Warn patients not to drive or operate dangerous machinery unless they are tolerant to the effects of BUTRANS and know how they will react to the medication.

Use in Addiction Treatment

BUTRANS has not been studied and is not approved for use in the management of addictive disorders.



Clinical Considerations

Fetal/neonatal adverse reactions
Prolonged use of opioid analgesics during pregnancy for medical or nonmedical purposes can result in physical dependence in the neonate and neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome shortly after birth. Observe newborns for symptoms of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome, such as poor feeding, diarrhea, irritability, tremor, rigidity, and seizures, and manage accordingly [see Warnings and Precautions ].

Teratogenic Effects - Pregnancy Category C
There are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women. BUTRANS should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.

In animal studies, buprenorphine caused an increase in the number of stillborn offspring, reduced litter size, and reduced offspring growth in rats at maternal exposure levels that were approximately 10 times that of human subjects who received one BUTRANS 20 mcg/hour, the maximum recommended human dose (MRHD).

Studies in rats and rabbits demonstrated no evidence of teratogenicity following BUTRANS or subcutaneous (SC) administration of buprenorphine during the period of major organogenesis. Rats were administered up to one BUTRANS 20 mcg/hour every 3 days (gestation days 6, 9, 12, & 15) or received daily SC buprenorphine up to 5 mg/kg (gestation days 6-17). Rabbits were administered four BUTRANS 20 mcg/hour every 3 days (gestation days 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, & 19) or received daily SC buprenorphine up to 5 mg/kg (gestation days 6-19). No teratogenicity was observed at any dose. AUC values for buprenorphine with BUTRANS application and SC injection were approximately 110 and 140 times, respectively, that of human subjects who received the MRHD of one BUTRANS 20 mcg/hour.

Non-Teratogenic Effects
In a peri- and post-natal study conducted in pregnant and lactating rats, administration of buprenorphine either as BUTRANS or SC buprenorphine was associated with toxicity to offspring. Buprenorphine was present in maternal milk. Pregnant rats were administered 1/4 of one BUTRANS 5 mcg/hour every 3 days or received daily SC buprenorphine at doses of 0.05, 0.5, or 5 mg/kg from gestation day 6 to lactation day 21 (weaning). Administration of BUTRANS or SC buprenorphine at 0.5 or 5 mg/kg caused maternal toxicity and an increase in the number of stillborns, reduced litter size, and reduced offspring growth at maternal exposure levels that were approximately 10 times that of human subjects who received the MRHD of one BUTRANS 20 mcg/hour. Maternal toxicity was also observed at the no observed adverse effect level (NOAEL) for offspring.

Labor and Delivery

Opioids cross the placenta and may produce respiratory depression in neonates. BUTRANS is not for use in women during and immediately prior to labor, when shorter acting analgesics or other analgesic techniques are more appropriate. Opioid analgesics can prolong labor through actions that temporarily reduce the strength, duration, and frequency of uterine contractions. However this effect is not consistent and may be offset by an increased rate of cervical dilatation, which tends to shorten labor.

Nursing Mothers

Buprenorphine is excreted in breast milk. The amount of buprenorphine received by the infant varies depending on the maternal plasma concentration, the amount of milk ingested by the infant, and the extent of first pass metabolism.

Withdrawal symptoms can occur in breast-feeding infants when maternal administration of buprenorphine is stopped.

Because of the potential for adverse reactions in nursing infants from BUTRANS, a decision should be made whether to discontinue nursing or discontinue the drug, taking into account the importance of the drug to the mother.

Pediatric Use

The safety and efficacy of BUTRANS in patients under 18 years of age has not been established.

Geriatric Use

Of the total number of subjects in the clinical trials (5,415), BUTRANS was administered to 1,377 patients aged 65 years and older. Of those, 457 patients were 75 years of age and older. In the clinical program, the incidences of selected BUTRANS-related AEs were higher in older subjects. The incidences of application site AEs were slightly higher among subjects < 65 years of age than those ≥ 65 years of age for both BUTRANS and placebo treatment groups.

In a single-dose study of healthy elderly and healthy young subjects treated with BUTRANS 10 mcg/hour, the pharmacokinetics were similar. In a separate dose-escalation safety study, the pharmacokinetics in the healthy elderly and hypertensive elderly subjects taking thiazide diuretics were similar to those in the healthy young adults. In the elderly groups evaluated, adverse event rates were similar to or lower than rates in healthy young adult subjects, except for constipation and urinary retention, which were more common in the elderly. Although specific dose adjustments on the basis of advanced age are not required for pharmacokinetic reasons, use caution in the elderly population to ensure safe use [see Clinical Pharmacology].

Hepatic Impairment

In a study utilizing intravenous buprenorphine, peak plasma levels (Cmax) and exposure (AUC) of buprenorphine in patients with mild and moderate hepatic impairment did not increase as compared to those observed in subjects with normal hepatic function. BUTRANS has not been evaluated in patients with severe hepatic impairment. As BUTRANS is intended for 7-day dosing, consider the use of alternate analgesic therapy in patients with severe hepatic impairment [see Dosage and Administration and Clinical Pharmacology].

Page last updated: 2014-07-03

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