Background: Buprenorphine can be used for the treatment of opioid dependence in primary care settings. National guidelines recommend directly observed initial dosing followed by multiple in-clinic visits during the induction week. We offered buprenorphine treatment at a public hospital primary care clinic using a home, unobserved induction protocol.
Methods: Participants were opioid-dependent adults eligible for office-based buprenorphine treatment. The initial physician visit included assessment, education, induction telephone support instructions, an illustrated home induction pamphlet, and a 1-week buprenorphine/naloxone prescription. Patients initiated dosing off-site at a later time. Follow-up with urine toxicology testing occurred at day 7 and thereafter at varying intervals. Primary outcomes were treatment status at week 1 and induction-related events: severe precipitated withdrawal, other buprenorphine-prompted withdrawal symptoms, prolonged unrelieved withdrawal, and serious adverse events (SAEs).
Results: Patients (N = 103) were predominantly heroin users (68%), but also prescription opioid misusers (18%) and methadone maintenance patients (14%). At the end of week 1, 73% were retained, 17% provided induction data but did not return to the clinic, and 11% were lost to follow-up with no induction data available. No cases of severe precipitated withdrawal and no SAEs were observed. Five cases (5%) of mild-to-moderate buprenorphine-prompted withdrawal and eight cases of prolonged unrelieved withdrawal symptoms (8% overall, 21% of methadone-to-buprenorphine inductions) were reported. Buprenorphine-prompted withdrawal and prolonged unrelieved withdrawal symptoms were not associated with treatment status at week 1.
Conclusions: Home buprenorphine induction was feasible and appeared safe. Induction complications occurred at expected rates and were not associated with short-term treatment drop-out.