Spotlight on Buprenorphine/Naloxone in the Treatment of Opioid Dependence†
Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone®) comprises the partial μ-opioid receptor agonist buprenorphine in combination with the opioid antagonist naloxone in a 4: 1 ratio. When buprenorphine/naloxone is taken sublingually as prescribed, the naloxone exerts no clinically significant effect, leaving the opioid agonist effects of buprenorphine to predominate. However, when buprenorphine/naloxone is parenterally administered in patients physically dependent on full agonist opioids, the opioid antagonism of naloxone causes withdrawal effects, thus reducing the abuse potential of the drug combination.
Buprenorphine/naloxone is an effective maintenance therapy for opioid dependence and has generally similar efficacy to methadone, although more data are needed. Less frequent dispensing of buprenorphine/naloxone (e.g. thrice weekly) does not appear to compromise efficacy and can improve patient satisfaction. Buprenorphine/naloxone is more effective than clonidine as a medically supervised withdrawal therapy. Moreover, buprenorphine/naloxone is a generally well tolerated medically supervised withdrawal and maintenance treatment. Thus, sublingual buprenorphine/naloxone is a valuable pharmacotherapy for the treatment of opioid dependence.
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