Short- and intermediate-term efficacy of buprenorphine TDS in chronic painful neuropathies

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Buprenorphine is a potent opioid available as a transdermal delivery system (TDS) formulation. This open-label study investigated its safety, tolerability, and efficacy in 30 patients with chronic painful neuropathy. Subjects with visual analogue scale (VAS) score ≥5 under stable analgesic treatment were entered. The starting dosage of 35 μg/h was increased up to 70.0 μg/h in case of unsatisfactory pain control as assessed by fortnightly visits. The primary endpoint was the number of patients achieving at least 30% pain relief at day 42 visit. Treatment was safe over the study period. Nine patients dropped out for side effects, mostly nausea and daily sleepiness. Buprenorphine TDS was well tolerated in 21 patients. Thirteen patients achieved >30% of pain relief at day 42 visit. Five patients needed to increase the dosage to 52.5 μg/h. Eight patients did not meet the primary outcome, but none allowed increasing the dosage to 70 μg/h, and four patients withdrew consent to continue the study before day 42 visit because of a ‘fear to become addicted,’ although 40% had obtained VAS reduction. In our study, which needs to be confirmed by a controlled trial, buprenorphine TDS induced clinically meaningful pain relief in about 40% of patients with chronic painful neuropathy, suggesting its use as a third-line treatment.

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