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JAMA. 2010 Oct 13;304(14):1576-83. doi: 10.1001/jama.2010.1427.

Buprenorphine implants for treatment of opioid dependence: a randomized controlled trial.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, USA.



Limitations of existing pharmacological treatments for opioid dependence include low adherence, medication diversion, and emergence of withdrawal symptoms.


To determine the efficacy of buprenorphine implants that provide a low, steady level of buprenorphine over 6 months for the treatment of opioid dependence.


A randomized, placebo-controlled, 6-month trial conducted at 18 sites in the United States between April 2007 and June 2008. One hundred sixty-three adults, aged 18 to 65 years, diagnosed with opioid dependence. One hundred eight were randomized to receive buprenorphine implants and 55 to receive placebo implants.


After induction with sublingual buprenorphine-naloxone tablets, patients received either 4 buprenorphine implants (80 mg per implant) or 4 placebo implants. A fifth implant was available if a threshold for rescue use of sublingual buprenorphine-naloxone treatment was exceeded. Standardized individual drug counseling was provided to all patients.


The percentage of urine samples negative for illicit opioids for weeks 1 through 16 and for weeks 17 through 24.


The buprenorphine implant group had significantly more urine samples negative for illicit opioids during weeks 1 through 16 (P = .04). Patients with buprenorphine implants had a mean percentage of urine samples that tested negative for illicit opioids across weeks 1 through 16 of 40.4% (95% confidence interval [CI], 34.2%-46.7%) and a median of 40.7%; whereas those in the placebo group had a mean of 28.3% (95% CI, 20.3%-36.3%) and a median of 20.8%. A total of 71 of 108 patients (65.7%) who received buprenorphine implants completed the study vs 17 of 55 (30.9%) who received placebo implants (P < .001). Those who received buprenorphine implants also had fewer clinician-rated (P <.001) and patient-rated (P = .004) withdrawal symptoms, had lower patient ratings of craving (P <.001), and experienced a greater change on clinician global ratings of severity of opioid dependence (P<.001) and on the clinician global ratings of improvement (P < .001) than those who received placebo implants. Minor implant site reactions were the most common adverse events: 61 patients (56.5%) in the buprenorphine group and 29 (52.7%) in the placebo group.


Among persons with opioid dependence, the use of buprenorphine implants compared with placebo resulted in less opioid use over 16 weeks as assessed by urine samples.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: Identifier: NCT00447564.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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