Opiate dependence remains a fundamental challenge confronting health delivery systems and is often characterized as a social and moral issue. The impact of this disorder on healthcare policy is changing with the increased incidence of HIV, hepatitis C, and tuberculosis infections in opiate-dependent patients. These medical illnesses have substantial effect on escalating healthcare costs, and, therefore, also affect healthcare policy priorities, which are responsive to these costs. Pharmacological treatments for opiate dependence have had limited success; often the consequence of limited access to care. Hence, there is a need to develop new pharmacotherapies for opiate dependence that extend the range of clinical options, including new first-line treatment approaches. This paper will focus on the safety and health policy considerations related to the use of buprenorphine and buprenorphine/naloxone based on data derived from clinical trials and post-marketing surveillance that provide evidence for the use of the medications as first-line treatments in an office-based environment. The evaluation of this evidence formed the basis by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to support and pursue the evaluation and registration of buprenorphine/naloxone and buprenorphine in a public/private sector cooperative effort to become an office-based, first-line treatment for opiate dependence.