Summary of Buprenorphine for Opioid Addiction

Summary

Opioid addiction is a widespread problem and does not have a clear solution. Heroin, fentanyl, and some prescription painkillers like OxyContin are opioids. According to the CDC, 70,200 people died from drug overdoses in 2017. Out of these, 68% involved an opioid. This means that approximately 130 Americans die each day from opioid overdoses. The rate of opioid overdose increased by 6 times between 1999 and 2017.

Medications are sometimes used to treat opioid addiction. One medication called BNX is made of buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine works by partially filling the opioid receptors. It helps to decrease cravings and does not make people high. It is also safer than opioids. Naloxone keeps people from getting high if they take other opioids.

 A new version of BNX called BNX-RDT was developed which dissolves faster. This medication is made in a dissolvable wafer. Patients must hold it under their tongues for several minutes, which can be unpleasant. This medication also works faster to decrease cravings.

The participants in this study were healthy volunteers. They received medication to keep the buprenorphine from working. We already know that the drug helps people with addictions. The goal is to test that the wafers release the right amount of drug. This study compared BNX to BNX-RDT. The healthy volunteers were fasting and knew which medication they were taking. 64 participants received a low dose and 61 received a high dose.

The researchers collected pharmacokinetic data. This measures how the drug moves through the body and how much is in the patient’s plasma. We know how much of the drug is needed for it to be effective. They measured the bioavailability of the drug. Bioavailability means how much of the drug has an active effect.

The BNX-RDT was more bioavailable so less of it is needed to help the patients. This is good because it can have fewer side effects. Patients preferred the BNX-RDT to the BNX. They thought that it tasted better and had better mouthfeel. The question is if these benefits are worthwhile.

However, people are critical of the BNX-RDT. It might give patients a bit of a rush. It is also an opioid itself and has some side effects. People with addiction feel like it is better to quit on their own. They do not want to become dependent on other drugs. BNX is expensive and sometimes hard to get. Many doctors are not trained to give their patients BNX. There is a lot of stigma around addiction and patients with addiction can be difficult to treat.

Medications are patented by the company that creates them. Before the patent expires, the companies can charge more for the medication since no generic drug is available. Making the BNX-RDT might just be a way to extend the patent. This would help the company profit more and cost the patients a lot more money.

Richard Sackler founded Purdue Pharma, the company which created OxyContin. He is an author on the patent for BNX-RDT. People think that it is unfair that those who created the opioid problem are profiting from the solution. The participants in our video thought that more money should go towards non-medication approaches and the use of CBD.

Cited Publication:

Jönsson, Mundin, & Sumner. (2018). Pharmacokinetic and pharmaceutical properties of a novel buprenorphine/naloxone sublingual tablet for opioid substitution therapy versus conventional buprenorphine/naloxone sublingual tablet in healthy volunteers. European Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 122, 125-133.

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