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Two-year Experience with Buprenorphine-naloxone (Suboxone) for Maintenance Treatment of Opioid Dependence Within a Private Practice Setting

Finch, James W. MD; Kamien, Jonathan B. PhD; Amass, Leslie PhD

Journal of Addiction Medicine: June 2007 - Volume 1 - Issue 2 - p 104-110
doi: 10.1097/ADM.0b013e31809b5df2
Original Article

Office-based buprenorphine-naloxone (Suboxone) treatment in the United States has significantly improved access to safe and effective opioid-dependence therapy. Little data from physicians' experiences prescribing Suboxone in private offices have been available. This retrospective chart review describes a family practitioner's first 2 years of clinical experience prescribing Suboxone for opioid dependence to 71 patients in a private office. After directly observed rapid office dose induction, Suboxone prescriptions were given monthly after evidence of continued stability. Urine was screened regularly and patients were referred for counseling and other ancillary services. Patients averaged 32 years old, 4.3 years of opioid dependence, and were primarily white (93%) and employed (70%). Fifty-two percent used heroin primarily (most by injection), and 70% had no agonist substitution therapy history. Almost half (47%) paid for their own treatment. Compliance during dose induction was excellent. Suboxone maintenance doses averaged 10 (range, 2–24) mg per day. More than 80% of urine samples were opioid-negative after Suboxone treatment began, although urinalysis did not always include a test for oxycodone. Seventy-five percent had successful outcomes by remaining in Suboxone treatment (43%), tapering successfully (21%), transferring to methadone maintenance (7%), or inpatient treatment (4%). Fifty-eight percent reported receiving counseling. Almost all (85%) paid their fees on time. There were no safety, medication abuse, or diversion issues detected. Overall, office-based Suboxone therapy was easily implemented and the physician considered the experience excellent. Suboxone maintenance was associated with good treatment retention and significantly reduced opioid use, and it is helping to reach patients, including injection drug users, without histories of agonist substitution therapy.

From BioPsych Consulting, Califon, NJ.

Received February 7, 2007; revised April 26, 2007; accepted April 26, 2007.

Leslie Amass is currently employed by Schering-Plough Corporation, a distributor of buprenorphine worldwide, excluding the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.

This study was supported by an educational grant from Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Richmond, Virginia.

This paper was presented in part at the College on Problems of Drug Dependence Annual Meeting, Scottsdale, AZ, June 2006.

Send correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. James W. Finch, 910 Broad Street, Durham, NC 27705. e-mail:

© 2007 American Society of Addiction Medicine