Practice Guidance for Buprenorphine for the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorders: Results of an Expert Panel Process

Subst Abus. 2015;36(2):209-16. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2015.1012613. Epub 2015 Apr 6.


Background: Although the number of physicians credentialed to prescribe buprenorphine has increased over time, many credentialed physicians may be reluctant to treat individuals with opioid use disorders due to discomfort with prescribing buprenorphine. Although prescribing physicians are required to complete a training course, many have questions about buprenorphine and treatment guidelines have not been updated to reflect clinical experience in recent years. We report on an expert panel process to update and expand buprenorphine guidelines.

Methods: We identified candidate guidelines through expert opinion and a review of the literature and used a modified RAND/UCLA Appropriateness Method to assess the validity of the candidate guidelines. An expert panel completed 2 rounds of rating, with a meeting to discuss the guidelines between the first and second ratings.

Results: Through the rating process, expert panel members rated 90 candidate guideline statements across 8 domains, including candidacy for buprenorphine treatment, dosing of buprenorphine, psychosocial counseling, and treatment of co-occurring depression and anxiety. A total of 65 guideline statements (72%) were rated as valid. Expert panel members had agreement in some areas, such as the treatment of co-occurring mental health problems, but disagreement in others, including the appropriate dosing of buprenorphine given patient complexities.

Conclusions: Through an expert panel process, we developed an updated and expanded set of buprenorphine treatment guidelines; this additional guidance may increase credentialed physicians' comfort with prescribing buprenorphine to patients with opioid use disorders. Future efforts should focus on appropriate dosing guidance and ensuring that guidelines can be adapted to a variety of practice settings.

Keywords: Buprenorphine; clinical practice guidelines; opioid use disorders.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Buprenorphine / therapeutic use*
  • Counseling
  • Humans
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Buprenorphine