Treatment of Chronic Pain With Various Buprenorphine Formulations: A Systematic Review of Clinical Studies

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Clinical studies demonstrate that buprenorphine is a pharmacologic agent that can be used for the treatment of various types of painful conditions. This study investigated the efficacy of 5 different types of buprenorphine formulations in the chronic pain population. The literature was reviewed on PubMed/MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Database,, and PROSPERO that dated from inception until June 30, 2017. Using the population, intervention, comparator, and outcomes method, 25 randomized controlled trials were reviewed involving 5 buprenorphine formulations in patients with chronic pain: intravenous buprenorphine, sublingual buprenorphine, sublingual buprenorphine/naloxone, buccal buprenorphine, and transdermal buprenorphine, with comparators consisting of opioid analgesics or placebo. Of the 25 studies reviewed, a total of 14 studies demonstrated clinically significant benefit with buprenorphine in the management of chronic pain: 1 study out of 6 sublingual and intravenous buprenorphine, the only sublingual buprenorphine/naloxone study, 2 out of 3 studies of buccal buprenorphine, and 10 out of 15 studies for transdermal buprenorphine showed significant reduction in pain against a comparator. No serious adverse effects were reported in any of the studies. We conclude that a transdermal buprenorphine formulation is an effective analgesic in patients with chronic pain, while buccal buprenorphine is also a promising formulation based on the limited number of studies.

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