Bioavailability of Sublingual Buprenorphine

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Buprenorphine administered sublingually is a promising treatment for opiate dependence. Utilizing a new, sensitive, and specific gas chromatographic electron-capture detector assay, the absolute bioavailability of sublingual buprenorphine was determined in six healthy volunteers by comparing plasma concentrations after 3- and 5-minute exposures to 2 mg sublingual and 1 mg intravenous buprenorphine. The amount of unabsorbed buprenorphine in saliva was measured after 2-, 4-, and 10-minute exposures to 2 mg sublingual buprenorphine in 12 participants. Pharmacokinetic parameters were analyzed by analysis of variance; bioequivalence was evaluated by the Schuirmann two-sided test. The 3- and 5- minute sublingual exposures each allowed 29 ± 10% bioavailability (area under the plasma concentration-time curve unextrapolated) and were bioequivalent. Buprenorphine recovered from saliva after 2-, 4-, and 10-minute exposures was, on average, 52% to 55% of dose. Increased saliva pH was correlated with decreased recovery from saliva. Study results indicate that bioavailability of sublingual buprenorphine is approximately 30%. Sublingual exposure times between 3 and 5 minutes produce equivalent results. Buprenorphine remaining in saliva causes an almost twofold overestimation of bioavailability.

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