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

J Addict Med. 2007 Jun;1(2):104-10. doi: 10.1097/ADM.0b013e31809b5df2.


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.