Buprenorphine Implants Effective in Opioid Dependence

Compared to placebo, result in decreased opioid use and lower drop-out rates
By Lindsey Marcellin
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Oct. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Implanted buprenorphine is an effective alternative for treatment of opioid dependency, resulting in fewer withdrawal symptoms and less treatment drop-out than placebo implants, according to research published in the Oct. 13 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Walter Ling, M.D., of the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues conducted a placebo-controlled trial of opioid-dependent patients; 108 were randomized to receive buprenorphine implants and 55 to receive placebo implants.

During weeks one through 16, the implant group had a significantly higher mean percentage of negative urine samples for illicit opioids (40.4 percent versus 28.3 percent in the placebo group). The buprenorphine group was also more than twice as likely to continue in the study for the full 24 weeks and described significantly fewer withdrawal symptoms and lower cravings. Clinician global ratings of severity of dependence and of improvement were also better for those in the buprenorphine group than those in the group receiving placebo implants.

"The improved retention rate was found in the current study despite the buprenorphine implants resulting in relatively low plasma concentrations of buprenorphine," the authors write. "Given the known pharmacokinetics of buprenorphine, the steady state plasma concentration levels are consistent with a constant buprenorphine release of 1 to 1.3 mg/d from 4 to 5 buprenorphine implants."

The study was funded by Titan Pharmaceuticals. One of the authors is a paid mentor in the Physician Clinical Support System for training physicians in buprenorphine, and several have financial ties to medical device and/or pharmaceutical companies, including Titan.

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