Dose patterns among patients using low-dose buprenorphine patches

Pain Med. 2013 Sep;14(9):1374-80. doi: 10.1111/pme.12142. Epub 2013 May 21.


Objective: The objective of this study was to investigate the dose pattern of low-dose buprenorphine patches among patients in Swedish clinical practice. The clinical experts among the coauthors interpreted the results in relation to possible indications of development of tolerance and/or dependence/addiction.

Design and setting: This was a nationwide, observational study using data from the Swedish Prescribed Drug Register.

Subjects: Individuals who were dispensed the low-dose buprenorphine patches continuously for more than 24 weeks during July 1, 2005 to February 28, 2011 were included.

Methods: The dose pattern was analyzed as the change in dose over time for each patient: 1) the dose at baseline compared with each of the following 8-week intervals, and 2) the dose at baseline compared with the dose during the patients' last treatment period.

Results: The majority of the patients were female (74%), and most were 75 years and older (69%). The median treatment duration was 260 days, and 4% and 1% of patients remained on continuous treatment for 2 and 3 years, respectively. The mean dose was 11 μg/h at baseline, and 15 μg/h during the patients' last treatment period. The average dose increased by 4 μg/h during the patients' entire treatment course.

Conclusions: The average dose increased by 4 μg/h during the patients' treatment course, which lasted on an average of 260 days. From a clinical perspective, the dose increase of 4 μg/h is low and does not suggest dependence/addiction, as also supported by the low proportion of patients remaining on continuous treatment.

Keywords: Buprenorphine; Dose Patterns; Drug Utilization; Opioid-Related Disorders; Tolerance; Transdermal.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage*
  • Buprenorphine / administration & dosage*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Tolerance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Opioid-Related Disorders
  • Transdermal Patch
  • Young Adult


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Buprenorphine