Buprenorphine HCl sublingual tablets are administered sublingually as a single daily dose. Buprenorphine HCl sublingual tablets contain no naloxone and is preferred for use only during induction. Following induction, buprenorphine and naloxone sublingual film or buprenorphine and naloxone sublingual tablets are preferred due to the presence of naloxone when clinical use includes unsupervised administration. The use of buprenorphine HCl sublingual tablets for unsupervised administration should be limited to those patients who cannot tolerate buprenorphine and naloxone sublingual film or buprenorphine and naloxone sublingual tablets; for example, those patients who have been shown to be hypersensitive to naloxone.
Medication should be prescribed in consideration of the frequency of visits. Provision of multiple refills is not advised early in treatment or without appropriate patient follow-up visits.
Prior to induction, consideration should be given to the type of opioid dependence (i.e. long- or short-acting opioid), the time since last opioid use, and the degree or level of opioid dependence. To avoid precipitating withdrawal, induction with buprenorphine HCl sublingual tablets should be undertaken when objective and clear signs of withdrawal are evident.
It is recommended that an adequate treatment dose, titrated to clinical effectiveness, should be achieved as rapidly as possible. In a one-month study, patients received 8 mg of buprenorphine HCl sublingual tablets on Day 1 and 16 mg buprenorphine HCl sublingual tablets on Day 2. From Day 3 onward, patients received either buprenorphine and naloxone sublingual tablets or buprenorphine HCl sublingual tablets at the same buprenorphine dose as Day 2 based on their assigned treatment. Induction in the studies of buprenorphine solution was accomplished over 3-4 days, depending on the target dose. In some studies, gradual induction over several days led to a high rate of drop-out of buprenorphine patients during the induction period.
Patients taking heroin or other short-acting opioids: At treatment initiation, the dose of buprenorphine HCl sublingual tablets should be administered at least 4 hours after the patient last used opioids or preferably when moderate objective signs of opioid withdrawal appear.
Patients on methadone or other long-acting opioids: There is little controlled experience with the transfer of methadone-maintained patients to buprenorphine. Available evidence suggests that withdrawal signs and symptoms are possible during induction onto buprenorphine. Withdrawal appears more likely in patients maintained on higher doses of methadone (>30 mg) and when the first buprenorphine dose is administered shortly after the last methadone dose. Buprenorphine HCl sublingual tablet dosing should be initiated preferably when moderate objective signs of opioid withdrawal appear.
Buprenorphine HCl and naloxone is preferred for maintenance treatment.
Where buprenorphine HCl sublingual tablets are used in maintenance in patients who cannot tolerate the presence of naloxone, the dosage of buprenorphine HCl sublingual tablets should be progressively adjusted in increments / decrements of 2 mg or 4 mg buprenorphine to a level that holds the patient in treatment and suppresses opioid withdrawal signs and symptoms.
The maintenance dose is generally in the range of 4 mg to 24 mg buprenorphine per day depending on the individual patient.
Doses higher than this have not been demonstrated to provide any clinical advantage.
2.3 Method of Administration
Buprenorphine HCl sublingual tablets should be placed under the tongue until it is dissolved. For doses requiring the use of more than two tablets, patients are advised to either place all the tablets at once or alternatively (if they cannot fit in more than two tablets comfortably), place two tablets at a time under the tongue. Either way, the patients should continue to hold the tablets under the tongue until they dissolve; swallowing the tablets reduces the bioavailability of the drug. To ensure consistency in bioavailability, patients should follow the same manner of dosing with continued use of the product.
Proper administration technique should be demonstrated to the patient.
2.4 Clinical Supervision
Treatment should be initiated with supervised administration, progressing to unsupervised administration as the patient's clinical stability permits. The use of buprenorphine HCl sublingual tablets for unsupervised administration should be limited to those patients who cannot tolerate buprenorphine HCl and naloxone, for example those patients with known hypersensitivity to naloxone. Buprenorphine and naloxone and buprenorphine HCl sublingual tablets are both subject to diversion and abuse. When determining the size of the prescription quantity for unsupervised administration, consider the patient's level of stability, the security of his or her home situation, and other factors likely to affect the ability of the patient to manage supplies of take-home medication.
Ideally, patients should be seen at reasonable intervals (e.g., at least weekly during the first month of treatment) based upon the individual circumstances of the patient. Medication should be prescribed in consideration of the frequency of visits. Provision of multiple refills is not advised early in treatment or without appropriate patient follow-up visits. Periodic assessment is necessary to determine compliance with the dosing regimen, effectiveness of the treatment plan, and overall patient progress.
Once a stable dosage has been achieved and patient assessment (e.g., urine drug screening) does not indicate illicit drug use, less frequent follow-up visits may be appropriate. A once-monthly visit schedule may be reasonable for patients on a stable dosage of medication who are making progress toward their treatment objectives. Continuation or modification of pharmacotherapy should be based on the physician's evaluation of treatment outcomes and objectives such as:
Absence of medication toxicity.
Absence of medical or behavioral adverse effects.
Responsible handling of medications by the patient.
Patient's compliance with all elements of the treatment plan (including recovery-oriented activities, psychotherapy, and/or other psychosocial modalities).
Abstinence from illicit drug use (including problematic alcohol and/or benzodiazepine use).
If treatment goals are not being achieved, the physician should re-evaluate the appropriateness of continuing the current treatment.
2.5 Patients With Hepatic Impairment
Severe hepatic impairment: Consider reducing the starting and titration incremental dose by half compared to patients with normal liver function, and monitor for signs and symptoms of toxicity or overdose caused by increased levels of buprenorphine.
Moderate hepatic impairment: Although no dose adjustment is necessary for patients with moderate hepatic impairment, buprenorphine HCl sublingual tablets should be used with caution in these patients and prescribers should monitor patients for signs and symptoms of toxicity or overdose caused by increased levels of buprenorphine.
Mild hepatic impairment: No clinically significant differences in pharmacokinetic parameters were observed in subjects with mild hepatic impairment. No dose adjustment is needed in patients with mild hepatic impairment . [see Warnings and Precautions (5.11)].
2.6 Unstable Patients
Physicians will need to decide when they cannot appropriately provide further management for particular patients. For example, some patients may be abusing or dependent on various drugs, or unresponsive to psychosocial intervention such that the physician does not feel that he/she has the expertise to manage the patient. In such cases, the physician may want to assess whether to refer the patient to a specialist or more intensive behavioral treatment environment. Decisions should be based on a treatment plan established and agreed upon with the patient at the beginning of treatment.
Patients who continue to misuse, abuse, or divert buprenorphine products or other opioids should be provided with, or referred to, more intensive and structured treatment.
2.7 Stopping Treatment
The decision to discontinue therapy with buprenorphine and naloxone or buprenorphine HCl sublingual tablets after a period of maintenance should be made as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Both gradual and abrupt discontinuation of buprenorphine has been used, but the data are insufficient to determine the best method of dose taper at the end of treatment.