Author(s): Rosenblum A, Cruciani RA, Strain EC, Cleland CM, Joseph H,
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Abstract OBJECTIVE: Sublingual buprenorphine/naloxone (Bup/Nx) is approved for addiction treatment and may be useful for pain management, particularly in opioid-treated patients with pain with nonadherence behaviors. The transition of opioid-treated patients with pain to buprenorphine carries the risk of precipitated withdrawal and increased pain. This study convened pain and addiction specialists to develop and pilot a clinical protocol for safe transitioning to Bup/Nx. DESIGN: The protocol was revised three times based on outside expert review and pilot study observations. The pilot was conducted with a prospective cohort of 12 patients with moderate to severe chronic pain, who were receiving long-term opioid therapy with any full m-agonist drug, and had exhibited one or more aberrant drug-related behaviors. Patients were followed up for 3-6 months with the expectation that they would experience few adverse events (AEs) and report lower pain severity. RESULTS: The three patients on the highest baseline opioid dose (equivalent to 303-450 mg of oral morphine) and the three on the lowest doses (≤20 mg) had early AEs when switched to Bup/Nx and did not complete the trial. Of the remaining six, one withdrew due to AEs; one responded well, then withdrew; and four completed a 3-month trial. A mixed-effects model controlling for dropouts found that average and worst pain significantly decreased after the switch to Bup/Nx (both p < 0.01). CONCLUSION: Based on this experience, the protocol recommends Bup/Nx for pain only when baseline opioid doses are within bounds that reduce AEs at transition and incorporates dose flexibility to further reduce risks. This protocol warrants further testing.
This article was published in J Opioid Manag
and referenced in Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy