Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Mar 12, 2022.
Addiction, Abuse, and MisuseBuprenorphine exposes patients and other users to the risks of opioid addiction, abuse, and misuse, which can lead to overdose and death. Assess each patient's risk prior to prescribing buprenorphine, and monitor all patients regularly for the development of these behaviors or conditions.Opioid Analgesic Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS)To ensure that the benefits of opioid analgesics outweigh the risks of addiction, abuse and misuse, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required a REMS for these products. Under the requirements of the REMS, drug companies with approved opioid analgesic products must make REMS-compliant education programs available to healthcare providers. Healthcare providers are strongly encouraged to: complete a REMS-compliant education program, counsel patients and/or their caregivers, with every prescription, on safe use, serious risks, storage, and disposal of these products, emphasize to patients and their caregivers the importance of reading the Medication Guide every time it is provided by their pharmacists, and consider other tools to improve patient, household, and community safety.Life-Threatening Respiratory DepressionSerious, life-threatening, or fatal respiratory depression may occur with use of buprenorphine. Monitor for respiratory depression, especially during initiation of buprenorphine or following a dose increase. Misuse or abuse of buprenorphine by chewing, swallowing, snorting or injecting buprenorphine extracted from the buccal film will result in the uncontrolled delivery of buprenorphine and pose a significant risk of overdose and death.Accidental ExposureAccidental exposure to even one dose of buprenorphine, especially by children, can result in a fatal overdose of buprenorphine.Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal SyndromeProlonged use of buprenorphine during pregnancy can result in neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome, which may be life-threatening if not recognized and treated, and requires management according to protocols developed by neonatology experts. If opioid use is required for a prolonged period in a pregnant woman, advise the patient of the risk of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome and ensure that appropriate treatment will be available.Risks from Concomitant Use with Benzodiazepines or Other CNS DepressantsReserve concomitant prescribing of buprenorphine and benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants for use in patients for whom alternative treatment options are inadequate. Limit dosages and durations to the minimum required. Follow patients for signs and symptoms of respiratory depression and sedation .
Commonly used brand name(s)
In the U.S.
Available Dosage Forms:
Therapeutic Class: Analgesic
Pharmacologic Class: Opioid Agonist/Antagonist
Chemical Class: Opioid
Uses for buprenorphine
Buprenorphine buccal film is used to relieve pain severe enough to require daily, around-the-clock, long-term opioid treatment and when other pain medicines did not work well enough or cannot be tolerated. Buprenorphine is not used for minor pain or pain that only sometimes occurs. It should not be used to treat pain that you only have once in a while or "as needed". Buprenorphine acts on the central nervous system (CNS) to relieve pain.
Buprenorphine sublingual tablet is used to treat opioid (narcotic) dependence or addiction. When a narcotic medicine is used for a long time, it may become habit-forming, causing mental or physical dependence. Physical dependence may lead to withdrawal side effects if the narcotic is stopped suddenly. Severe withdrawal side effects can usually be prevented when a person is switched to buprenorphine. It acts on the central nervous system (CNS) to help prevent withdrawal side effects.
When buprenorphine buccal film is used for a long time, it may become habit-forming, causing mental or physical dependence. However, people who have continuing pain should not let the fear of dependence keep them from using narcotics to relieve their pain. Mental dependence (addiction) is not likely to occur when narcotics are used for this purpose. Physical dependence may lead to withdrawal side effects if treatment is stopped suddenly. However, severe withdrawal side effects can usually be prevented by gradually reducing the dose over a period of time before treatment is stopped completely.
Subutex® is available only with your doctor's prescription. Belbuca® is available only under a restricted distribution program called the Opioid Analgesic REMS (Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy) program.
Before using buprenorphine
In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For buprenorphine, the following should be considered:
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to buprenorphine or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.
Appropriate studies have not been performed on the relationship of age to the effects of buprenorphine in the pediatric population. Safety and efficacy have not been established.
Appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated geriatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of buprenorphine in the elderly. However, elderly patients are more likely to have age-related liver, kidney, heart or lung problems, which may require caution and an adjustment in the dose for patients receiving buprenorphine in order to avoid potentially serious side effects.
There are no adequate studies in women for determining infant risk when using this medication during breastfeeding. Weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks before taking this medication while breastfeeding.
Interactions with medicines
Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. When you are taking buprenorphine, it is especially important that your healthcare professional know if you are taking any of the medicines listed below. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Using buprenorphine with any of the following medicines is not recommended. Your doctor may decide not to treat you with this medication or change some of the other medicines you take.
Using buprenorphine with any of the following medicines is usually not recommended, but may be required in some cases. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
- Aripiprazole Lauroxil
- Arsenic Trioxide
- Calcium Oxybate
- Chloral Hydrate
- Eslicarbazepine Acetate
- Gabapentin Enacarbil
- Inotuzumab Ozogamicin
- Magnesium Oxybate
- Methylene Blue
- Nitrous Oxide
- Opium Alkaloids
- Potassium Oxybate
- Ropeginterferon Alfa-2b-njft
- Sodium Oxybate
- Sodium Phosphate
- Sodium Phosphate, Dibasic
- Sodium Phosphate, Monobasic
- St John's Wort
- Tolonium Chloride
Interactions with food/tobacco/alcohol
Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Using buprenorphine with any of the following is usually not recommended, but may be unavoidable in some cases. If used together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use buprenorphine, or give you special instructions about the use of food, alcohol, or tobacco.
Other medical problems
The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of buprenorphine. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
- Addison disease (adrenal gland problem) or
- Alcohol abuse, or history of or
- Brain problems (eg, tumor, increased intracranial pressure), history of or
- Breathing problems, severe (eg, hypercapnia, hypoxia, sleep apnea) or
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or
- Cor pulmonale (serious heart condition) or
- Drug dependence, especially with narcotics, or history of or
- Enlarged prostate (eg, BPH, prostatic hypertrophy) or
- Gallbladder disease or gallstones or
- Head injury, history of or
- Heart disease (eg, angina, congestive heart failure) or
- Heart rhythm problems (eg, atrial fibrillation, slow heartbeat, long QT syndrome) or
- Hepatitis B or C, history of or
- Hypokalemia (low potassium in the blood) or
- Hypomagnesemia (low magnesium in the blood) or
- Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) or
- Hypovolemia (low blood volume) or
- Kyphoscoliosis (curvature of the spine with breathing problems) or
- Problems with passing urine—Use with caution. May increase risk for more serious side effects.
- Asthma, acute or severe or
- Respiratory depression (very slow breathing) or
- Stomach or bowel blockage (including paralytic ileus)—Belbuca® should not be used in patients with these conditions.
- Constipation or
- Hypotension (low blood pressure) or
- Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), history of or
- Seizures, history of—Use with caution. May make these conditions worse.
- Liver disease—Use with caution. The effects may be increased because of slower removal of the medicine from the body.
- Mucositis (mouth sores or ulcers)—Use with caution. The effects of the Belbuca® film may be increased because of more drug being absorbed.
Proper use of buprenorphine
Take buprenorphine exactly as directed by your doctor. Do not take more of it, do not take it more often, and do not take it for a longer time than your doctor ordered. This is especially important for elderly patients, who may be more sensitive to the effects of pain medicines. If too much of buprenorphine is taken for a long time, it may become habit-forming (causing mental or physical dependence).
It is very important that you understand the rules of the Opioid Analgesic REMS program to prevent addiction, abuse, and misuse of oxycodone. Buprenorphine should also come with a Medication Guide. Read and follow these instructions carefully. Read it again each time you refill your prescription in case there is new information. Ask your doctor if you have any questions.
To use the buccal film:
- Do not place the medicine on areas of the mouth with sores or lesions.
- Use your tongue to wet the inside of your cheek or rinse your mouth with water before placing the film in your mouth.
- Place the yellow side of the film against the inside of your cheek.
- Press against the film and hold it there with clean, dry fingers for 5 seconds.
- Leave the film in place until it dissolves and do not touch or move it. Do not chew or swallow the film.
- Do not eat or drink anything until the film is completely dissolved, which is usually within 30 minutes.
Do not crush or swallow the sublingual tablet. Place the tablet under the tongue until it is dissolved. If you take 2 or more tablets at a time, place all of the tablets under the tongue together. If this is uncomfortable, place 2 tablets at a time under the tongue and repeat the process until all tablets have been taken. Do not chew or swallow the sublingual tablet.
Use only the brand of buprenorphine that your doctor prescribed. Different brands may not work the same way.
The dose of buprenorphine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of buprenorphine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.
The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.
- For buccal dosage form (film):
- For severe pain:
- Adults—At first, 75 micrograms (mcg) as a single dose once a day or every 12 hours for at least 4 days. Your doctor may adjust your dose as needed. However, the dose is usually not more than 900 mcg every 12 hours.
- Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
- For severe pain:
- For sublingual dosage form (tablets):
- For maintenance treatment of opioid dependence:
- Adults—4 to 24 milligrams (mg) as a single dose once a day.
- Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
- For maintenance treatment of opioid dependence:
If you miss a dose of buprenorphine, take it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular dosing schedule. Do not double doses.
Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light. Keep from freezing.
Keep out of the reach of children.
Do not keep outdated medicine or medicine no longer needed.
Ask your healthcare professional how you should dispose of any medicine you do not use.
Drop off any unused tablets or buccal films at a drug take-back location right away. If you do not have a drug take-back location near you, flush any unused narcotic medicine down the toilet. Check your local drug store and clinics for take-back locations. You can also check the DEA web site for locations. Here is the link to the FDA safe disposal of medicines website: www.fda.gov/drugs/resourcesforyou/consumers/buyingusingmedicinesafely/ensuringsafeuseofmedicine/safedisposalofmedicines/ucm186187.htm
Precautions while using buprenorphine
It is very important that your doctor check your progress while you are using buprenorphine, especially within the first 24 to 72 hours of treatment. This will allow your doctor to see if the medicine is working properly and to decide if you should continue to take it. Blood and urine tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.
It is against the law and dangerous for anyone else to use your medicine. Keep your unused tablets and buccal films in a safe and secure place. People who are addicted to drugs might want to steal buprenorphine.
Do not use buprenorphine if you have used an MAO inhibitor (MAOI) (eg, isocarboxazid [Marplan®], linezolid [Zyvox®], phenelzine [Nardil®], selegiline [Eldepryl®], tranylcypromine [Parnate®]) within the past 14 days.
Using too much buprenorphine may cause an overdose. Symptoms of overdose include: change in consciousness, chest pain, cold and clammy skin, increased sweating coughing that sometimes produces a pink frothy sputum, difficult or trouble breathing, increased sweating, irregular, fast or slow, or shallow breathing, loss of consciousness, pale or blue lips, fingernails, or skin, sleepiness or unusual drowsiness, or swelling in legs and ankles. Your doctor may give you naloxone to treat an overdose.
Buprenorphine may cause sleep-related breathing problems (eg, sleep apnea, sleep-related hypoxemia). Your doctor may decrease your dose if you have sleep apnea (stop breathing for short periods during sleep) while using buprenorphine.
Before having any kind of surgery (including dental surgery) or emergency treatment, tell the medical doctor or dentist in charge that you are using buprenorphine. Serious unwanted effects can occur if certain medicines are given together with buprenorphine.
Buprenorphine will add to the effects of alcohol and other central nervous system (CNS) depressants (medicines that make you drowsy or less alert). Some examples of CNS depressants are antihistamines or medicine for hay fever, allergies, or colds, sedatives, benzodiazepines, tranquilizers, or sleeping medicine, other prescription pain medicine or narcotics, medicine for seizures or barbiturates, muscle relaxants, or anesthetics (numbing medicines), including some dental anesthetics. Check with your doctor or dentist before taking any of the medicines listed above while you are using buprenorphine.
Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting may occur when you get up suddenly from a lying or sitting position. Getting up slowly may help. Also, lying down for a while may relieve the dizziness or lightheadedness.
Buprenorphine may make you dizzy, drowsy, or lightheaded. Do not drive or do anything else that could be dangerous until you know how buprenorphine affects you.
Buprenorphine may cause serious allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Call your doctor right away if you have a rash, itching, hoarseness, trouble breathing, trouble swallowing, or any swelling of your hands, face, or mouth while you are using buprenorphine.
Check with your doctor right away if you have darkening of the skin, diarrhea, dizziness, fainting, loss of appetite, mental depression, nausea, skin rash, unusual tiredness or weakness, or vomiting. These may be symptoms of adrenal gland problem.
Contact your doctor right away if you have any changes to your heart rhythm. You might feel dizzy or faint, or you might have a fast, pounding, or uneven heartbeat. Make sure your doctor knows if you or anyone in your family has ever had a heart rhythm problem such as QT prolongation.
Belbuca® may be habit-forming. If you feel that the medicine is not working as well, do not use more than your prescribed dose. Call your doctor for instructions.
Using narcotics for a long time can cause severe constipation. To prevent this, your doctor may direct you to take laxatives, drink a lot of fluids, or increase the amount of fiber in your diet. Be sure to follow the directions carefully, because continuing constipation can lead to more serious problems.
If you have been using buprenorphine regularly for several weeks or longer, do not change your dose or suddenly stop using it without checking first with your doctor. Your doctor may want you to gradually reduce the amount you are using before stopping it completely. This may help reduce the possibility of withdrawal symptoms, such as stomach cramps, anxiety, fever, nausea, runny nose, sweating, tremors, or trouble with sleeping.
Using buprenorphine while you are pregnant may cause serious unwanted effects, including neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome in your newborn baby. Tell your doctor right away if you think you are pregnant or if you plan to become pregnant while using buprenorphine.
For nursing mothers taking Belbuca®:
- Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about taking oxycodone or about how buprenorphine may affect your baby.
- Call your doctor if you become extremely tired and have difficulty caring for your baby.
- Your baby should generally nurse every 2 to 3 hours and should not sleep for more than 4 hours at a time.
- Check with your doctor or hospital emergency room immediately if your baby shows signs of increased sleepiness (more than usual), difficulty breastfeeding, difficulty breathing, or limpness. These may be symptoms of an overdose and need immediate medical attention.
Using too much of buprenorphine may cause reduced infertility (unable to have children). Talk with your doctor before using buprenorphine if you plan to have children.
Check with your doctor right away if you have pain or tenderness in the upper stomach, pale stools, dark urine, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, or yellow eyes or skin. These could be symptoms of a serious liver problem.
Check with your doctor right away if you have anxiety, restlessness, a fast heartbeat, fever, sweating, muscle spasms, twitching, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or see or hear things that are not there. These may be symptoms of a serious condition called serotonin syndrome. Your risk may be higher if you also take certain other medicines that affect serotonin levels in your body.
Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines and herbal or vitamin supplements.
Buprenorphine side effects
Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
Check with your doctor immediately if any of the following side effects occur:
- Bladder pain
- bloating or swelling of the face, arms, hands, lower legs, or feet
- bloody or cloudy urine
- blurred vision
- cough producing mucus
- difficult, burning, or painful urination
- difficulty breathing
- frequent urge to urinate
- loss of appetite
- lower back or side pain
- mouth or throat pain
- pale skin
- pounding in the ears
- rapid weight gain
- slow or fast heartbeat
- stomach pain
- tightness in the chest
- tingling of the hands or feet
- trouble breathing
- unusual bleeding or bruising
- unusual tiredness or weakness
- unusual weight gain or loss
- Breakdown or tearing of the skin
- irregular heartbeat, recurrent
- irritation, itching, pain, redness, swelling, tenderness, or warmth on the skin
- unusual drowsiness, dullness, or feeling of sluggishness
Incidence not known
- burning, crawling, itching, numbness, prickling, "pins and needles", or tingling feelings
- blurred vision
- darkening of the skin
- difficulty swallowing
- dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness when getting up suddenly from a lying or sitting position
- headache, severe and throbbing
- hives, skin rash
- irregular, fast, slow, or shallow breathing
- mental depression
- overactive reflexes
- pale or blue lips, fingernails, or skin
- pinpoint pupils
- poor coordination
- puffiness or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
- relaxed and calm feeling
- talking or acting with excitement you cannot control
- trembling or shaking
Get emergency help immediately if any of the following symptoms of overdose occur:
Symptoms of overdose
- Change in consciousness
- chest pain
- cold and clammy skin
- increased sweating
- coughing that sometimes produces a pink frothy sputum
- difficult or trouble breathing
- increased sweating
- irregular, fast or slow, or shallow breathing
- loss of consciousness
- pale or blue lips, fingernails, or skin
- sleepiness or unusual drowsiness
- swelling in legs and ankles
Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:
- Back pain
- difficulty having a bowel movement
- painful or difficult urination
- runny nose
- stuffy nose
- trouble sleeping
- back pain
- decreased appetite
- feeling of warmth or heat
- flushing or redness of the skin, especially on the face and neck
- itching, skin rash
- muscle aches or spams
- pain or tenderness around eyes and cheekbones
- sore throat
- Lack or loss of strength
- muscle or bone pain
- neck pain
- stomach discomfort
Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
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