Buprenorphine - an attractive opioid with underutilized potential in treatment of chronic pain

J Pain Res. 2015 Dec 4:8:859-70. doi: 10.2147/JPR.S85951. eCollection 2015.


Despite proven clinical utility, buprenorphine has not been used widely for the treatment of chronic pain. Questions about "ceiling effect" or bell-shaped curve observed for analgesia in preclinical studies and potential withdrawal issues on combining with marketed μ-agonists continue to hinder progress in expanding full potential of buprenorphine in the treatment of cancer and noncancer pain. Mounting evidence from clinical studies and conclusions drawn by a panel of experts strongly support superior safety and efficacy profile of buprenorphine vs marketed opioids. No ceiling on analgesic effect has been reported in clinical studies. The receptor pharmacology and pharmacokinetics profile of buprenorphine is complex but unique and contributes to its distinct safety and efficacy. The buprenorphine pharmacology also allows it to be combined with other μ-receptor opioids for additivity in efficacy. Transdermal delivery products of buprenorphine have been preferred choices for the management of pain but new delivery options are under investigation for the treatment of both opioid dependence and chronic pain.

Keywords: buprenorphine; hyperalgesia; neuropathic pain; opioid dependence; opioids; partial agonist.

Publication types

  • Review