Background and objective: Buprenorphine/naloxone is a new option for the management of opioid dependence. It has a reduced potential for abuse or misuse compared with methadone and buprenorphine alone, and has a long half-life allowing less frequent dosing. Buprenorphine/naloxone appears to be well suited for the management of opioid dependence in an office-based setting. The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of a buprenorphine/naloxone combination treatment in an office-based setting. Therefore, we evaluated the effect on misuse/diversion, quality of care, quality of life and service delivery.
Study design: Seventy-eight patients were switched to buprenorphine/naloxone from either methadone or buprenorphine alone; the median duration of previous buprenorphine or methadone treatment was 10 years. Patients received buprenorphine/naloxone and were evaluated throughout a 1-year follow-up period. Treatment was self-administered by the patients every 2 weeks and the mean buprenorphine dosage at 1 year was 8 mg/day. Comparisons were made before and after the switch for patients who switched from buprenorphine alone to buprenorphine/naloxone.
Results: Switching to buprenorphine/naloxone was not associated with clinically relevant problems in 50% of patients studied. Buprenorphine/naloxone provided satisfactory coverage of withdrawal symptoms in 78.1% of patients, and 50% of patients were satisfied with buprenorphine/naloxone therapy. Seventy-eight per cent of patients reported improved psychosocial functioning. The majority of patients (approximately 85%) were negative for opioids during toxicological testing. A significantly higher proportion of treatment recipients were highly satisfied during buprenorphine/naloxone administration (p< 0.001 compared with buprenorphine given before the switch). Other outcomes were similar during buprenorphine and buprenorphine/naloxone administration. Fortnightly self-administration of buprenorphine/naloxone appeared to be cost saving for the clinic.
Conclusion: Buprenorphine/naloxone is an effective and safe treatment option for the outpatient management of opioid dependence.