Opioid Modulation With Buprenorphine/Samidorphan as Adjunctive Treatment for Inadequate Response to Antidepressants: A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial

Am J Psychiatry. 2016 May 1;173(5):499-508. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2015.15070921. Epub 2016 Feb 12.


Objective: Major depressive disorder has been associated with dysregulation of the endogenous opioid system. The authors sought to determine whether opioid modulation achieved through administration of ALKS 5461, a combination of a μ- and κ-opioid partial agonist, buprenorphine, and a μ-opioid antagonist, samidorphan, would exhibit antidepressant activity in patients with major depression.

Method: A multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, two-stage sequential parallel comparison design study was conducted in adults with major depression who had an inadequate response to one or two courses of antidepressant treatment. Participants were randomly assigned to receive adjunctive treatment with 2 mg/2 mg of buprenorphine/samidorphan (the 2/2 dosage group), 8 mg/8 mg of buprenorphine/samidorphan (the 8/8 dosage group), or placebo. Antidepressant effect was measured based on change from baseline to the end of 4 weeks of treatment on the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D), the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), and the Clinical Global Impressions severity scale (CGI-S).

Results: Compared with the placebo group, there were significantly greater improvements in the 2/2 dosage group across the three depression outcome measures (HAM-D: -2.8, 95% CI=-5.1, -0.6; MADRS: -4.9, 95% CI=-8.2, -1.6; CGI-S: -0.5, 95% CI=-0.9, -0.1). There was also evidence of improvement in the 8/8 dosage group, although it did not achieve statistical significance. Overall, the buprenorphine/samidorphan combinations were well tolerated, and there was no evidence of opioid withdrawal on treatment discontinuation.

Conclusions: The buprenorphine/samidorphan combination is a novel and promising candidate for treatment of major depressive disorder in patients who have an inadequate response to standard antidepressants.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Buprenorphine / therapeutic use*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Combinations
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Naltrexone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Naltrexone / therapeutic use
  • Narcotic Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • ALKS 5461
  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Drug Combinations
  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Buprenorphine
  • Naltrexone