Buprenorphine retention in primary care

J Gen Intern Med. 2005 Nov;20(11):1038-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1497.2005.0228.x.


Background: This study assesses the rate and predictors of treatment retention for primary care patients with opioid dependence-prescribed buprenorphine, a long-acting partial opioid agonist.

Methods: Observational cohort study of patients prescribed buprenorphine/naloxone and followed for 6 months in the period after the adoption of buprenophine/naloxone by a primary care practice in Rhode Island. Practice policy precluded patient discharges due to continuing drug use.

Results: Patients (n=41) had a mean duration of opioid use of 15.7 years and most had a history of heroin use (63.4%). Thirty-nine percent of patients transferred from methadone maintenance. At 24 weeks, 59% remained in treatment. Nearly half of dropouts occurred in the first 30 days. Participants with opiate-positive toxicologies at week 1 were more likely to drop out of the program (P<.01) and had a significantly shorter retention time (P<.01) on average. Among other drug use and drug treatment variables, employment and addiction counseling during treatment were significantly associated with treatment retention (P=.03).

Conclusion: Retention rates in a real world, primary care-based buprenorphine maintenance practice reflect those reported in clinical trials. Abstinence during the first week of treatment and receipt of counseling were critical to patient retention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Buprenorphine / therapeutic use*
  • Buprenorphine / urine
  • Cohort Studies
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methadone / therapeutic use
  • Middle Aged
  • Narcotics / agonists*
  • Narcotics / therapeutic use
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Patient Dropouts*
  • Primary Health Care
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Narcotics
  • Buprenorphine
  • Methadone