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Clin Drug Investig. 2010;30 Suppl 1:21-6. doi: 10.2165/11536010-000000000-00000.

Safety and efficacy of buprenorphine/naloxone in opioid-dependent patients: an Italian observational study.

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  • 1U.O.C. Ser.T Cosenza Provincial Health Agency, Cosenza, Italy.


Opioid dependence is a growing problem. Methadone is an established agent for the treatment of opioid dependence, but there is a risk of this agent being abused, a potential for interaction with antiretroviral agents and a risk of cardiac toxicity. Another option is the partial mu-opioid receptor opioid agonist buprenorphine, which has been used successfully to manage opioid dependence. While the risk of abuse is lower than that for methadone, there is still a risk. The sublingual combination formulation of buprenorphine and the opioid receptor antagonist naloxone (buprenorphine/naxolone) is a newer agent with reduced abuse potential, and has been shown to have promising efficacy for opioid dependence. We describe the results of an observational study investigating the safety and efficacy of buprenorphine/naloxone in opioid-dependent patients. A total of 77 patients were included and were switched from buprenorphine to sublingual tables of buprenorphine/naloxone; the buprenorphine dosage was titrated to achieve good control of withdrawal symptoms. The prevalence of withdrawal symptoms, craving, constipation, cramps, insomnia, sexual activity, depression, sweating, distress, bone/joint pain and drowsiness were compared over the first 30 days of treatment (period 1) and the total 120-day study duration (period 2). The average buprenorphine/naloxone dose in period 1 was 7.3 mg/day and 12.7 mg/day in period 2. Most patients did not experience any withdrawal symptoms in either period 1 or period 2. Fewer than 20% of patients experienced any cravings over the 120-day study period. Importantly, the adverse effects observed were usually mild, with very few patients experiencing significant adverse effects. This study shows that buprenorphine/naloxone is an effective and well tolerated treatment for opioid withdrawal when the dosage is titrated to achieve good control of withdrawal symptoms. Switching from buprenorphine alone to buprenorphine/naloxone was possible with very little discomfort for the patient and effective retained patients in treatment.

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