Buprenorphine (Page 2 of 11)

2.8 Patients with Severe Hepatic Impairment

Consider reducing the starting and titration incremental dose by half and monitor for signs and symptoms of toxicity or overdose caused by increased levels of buprenorphine.

2.9 Unstable Patients

Healthcare providers will need to decide when they cannot appropriately provide further management for particular patients. For example, some patients may be abusing or dependent on various drugs, or unresponsive to psychosocial intervention such that the healthcare provider does not feel that he/she has the expertise to manage the patient. In such cases, the healthcare provider may want to assess whether to refer the patient to a specialist or more intensive behavioral treatment environment. Decisions should be based on a treatment plan established and agreed upon with the patient at the beginning of treatment.

Patients who continue to misuse, abuse, or divert buprenorphine products or other opioids should be provided with, or referred to, more intensive and structured treatment.

2.10 Discontinuing Treatment

The decision to discontinue therapy with buprenorphine and naloxone or buprenorphine after a period of maintenance should be made as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Advise patients of the potential to relapse to illicit drug use following discontinuation of opioid agonist/partial agonist medication-assisted treatment. Taper patients to reduce the occurrence of withdrawal signs and symptoms [see Warnings and Precautions (5.7)].

3 DOSAGE FORMS AND STRENGTHS

Buprenorphine sublingual tablets are supplied as uncoated oval orange tablets in two dosage strengths:

  • buprenorphine 2 mg, and
  • buprenorphine 8 mg

4 CONTRAINDICATIONS

Buprenorphine sublingual tablets are contraindicated in patients with a history of hypersensitivity to buprenorphine, as serious adverse reactions, including anaphylactic shock, have been reported [see Warnings and Precautions ( 5.9) ] .

5 WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS

5.1 Addiction, Abuse, and Misuse

Buprenorphine is a Schedule III controlled substance that can be abused in a manner similar to other opioids, legal or illicit. Prescribe and dispense buprenorphine with appropriate precautions to minimize risk of misuse, abuse, or diversion, and ensure appropriate protection from theft, including in the home. Clinical monitoring appropriate to the patient’s level of stability is essential. Multiple refills should not be prescribed early in treatment or without appropriate patient follow-up visits [see Drug Abuse and Dependence ( 9.2) ] .

5.2 Risk of Life-Threatening Respiratory and Central Nervous System (CNS) Depression

Buprenorphine has been associated with life-threatening respiratory depression and death. Many, but not all, post-marketing reports regarding coma and death involved misuses by self-injection or were associated with the concomitant use of benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants, including alcohol. Warn patients of the potential danger of self-administration of benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants while under treatment with buprenorphine sublingual tablets [see Warnings and Precautions (5.3), Drug Interactions (7)].

Use buprenorphine sublingual tablets with caution in patients with compromised respiratory function (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cor pulmonale, decreased respiratory reserve, hypoxia, hypercapnia, or pre-existing respiratory depression).

Educate patients and caregivers on how to recognize respiratory depression and emphasize the importance of calling 911 or getting emergency medical help right away in the event of a known or suspected overdose [see Patient Counseling Information (17)].

Opioids can cause sleep-related breathing disorders including central sleep apnea (CSA) and sleep-related hypoxemia. Opioid use increases the risk of CSA in a dose-dependent fashion. In patients who present with CSA, consider decreasing the opioid dosage using best practices for opioid taper [see Dosage and Administration (2.10)].

Patient Access to Naloxone for the Emergency Treatment of Opioid Overdose

Discuss the availability of naloxone for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose with the patient and caregiver.

Because patients being treated for opioid use disorder have the potential for relapse, putting them at risk for opioid overdose, strongly consider prescribing naloxone for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose, both when initiating and renewing treatment with buprenorphine sublingual tablets. Also consider prescribing naloxone if the patient has household members (including children) or other close contacts at risk for accidental ingestion or opioid overdose [see Dosage and Administration (2.3)].

Advise patients and caregivers that naloxone may also be administered for a known or suspected overdose with buprenorphine sublingual tablets itself. Higher than normal doses and repeated administration of naloxone may be necessary due to the long duration of action of buprenorphine sublingual tablets and its affinity for the mu-opioid receptor [see Overdosage (10)].

Inform patients and caregivers of their options for obtaining naloxone as permitted by individual state naloxone dispensing and prescribing requirements or guidelines (e.g., by prescription, directly from a pharmacist, or as part of a community-based program).

Educate patients and caregivers on how to recognize respiratory depression and, if naloxone is prescribed, how to treat with naloxone. Emphasize the importance of calling 911 or getting emergency medical help, even if naloxone is administered [see Patient Counseling Information (17)].

5.3 Managing Risks from Concomitant Use of Benzodiazepines or Other CNS Depressants

Concomitant use of buprenorphine and benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants increases the risk of adverse reactions including overdose and death. Medication-assisted treatment of opioid use disorder, however, should not be categorically denied to patients taking these drugs. Prohibiting or creating barriers to treatment can pose an even greater risk of morbidity and mortality due to the opioid use disorder alone.

As a routine part of orientation to buprenorphine treatment, educate patients about the risks of concomitant use of benzodiazepines, sedatives, opioid analgesics, and alcohol.

Develop strategies to manage use of prescribed or illicit benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants at initiation of buprenorphine treatment, or if it emerges as a concern during treatment. Adjustments to induction procedures and additional monitoring may be required. There is no evidence to support dose limitations or arbitrary caps of buprenorphine as a strategy to address benzodiazepine use in buprenorphine-treated patients. However, if a patient is sedated at the time of buprenorphine dosing, delay or omit the buprenorphine dose if appropriate.

Cessation of benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants is preferred in most cases of concomitant use. In some cases, monitoring in a higher level of care for taper may be appropriate. In others, gradually tapering a patient off of a prescribed benzodiazepine or other CNS depressant or decreasing to the lowest effective dose may be appropriate.

For patients in buprenorphine treatment, benzodiazepines are not the treatment of choice for anxiety or insomnia. Before co-prescribing benzodiazepines, ensure that patients are appropriately diagnosed and consider alternative medications and non-pharmacologic treatments to address anxiety or insomnia. Ensure that other healthcare providers prescribing benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants are aware of the patient’s buprenorphine treatment and coordinate care to minimize the risks associated with concomitant use.

If concomitant use is warranted, strongly consider prescribing naloxone for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose, as is recommended for all patients in buprenorphine treatment for opioid use disorder [see Warnings and Precautions (5.2)].

In addition, take measures to confirm that patients are taking their medications as prescribed and are not diverting or supplementing with illicit drugs. Toxicology screening should test for prescribed and illicit benzodiazepines [see Drug Interactions (7)].

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