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J Support Oncol. 2012 Nov-Dec;10(6):209-19. doi: 10.1016/j.suponc.2012.05.002. Epub 2012 Jul 17.

Twelve reasons for considering buprenorphine as a frontline analgesic in the management of pain.

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Cleveland Clinic Lerner School of Medicine at Case Western University, OH 44195, USA.


Buprenorphine is an opioid that has a complex and unique pharmacology which provides some advantages over other potent mu agonists. We review 12 reasons for considering buprenorphine as a frontline analgesic for moderate to severe pain: (1) Buprenorphine is effective in cancer pain; (2) buprenorphine is effective in treating neuropathic pain; (3) buprenorphine treats a broader array of pain phenotypes than do certain potent mu agonists, is associated with less analgesic tolerance, and can be combined with other mu agonists; (4) buprenorphine produces less constipation than do certain other potent mu agonists, and does not adversely affect the sphincter of Oddi; (5) buprenorphine has a ceiling effect on respiratory depression but not analgesia; (6) buprenorphine causes less cognitive impairment than do certain other opioids; (7) buprenorphine is not immunosuppressive like morphine and fentanyl; (8) buprenorphine does not adversely affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis or cause hypogonadism; (9) buprenorphine does not significantly prolong the QTc interval, and is associated with less sudden death than is methadone; (10) buprenorphine is a safe and effective analgesic for the elderly; (11) buprenorphine is one of the safest opioids to use in patients in renal failure and those on dialysis; and (12) withdrawal symptoms are milder and drug dependence is less with buprenorphine. In light of evidence for efficacy, safety, versatility, and cost, buprenorphine should be considered as a first-line analgesic.

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