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New RTI Press brief summarizes and offers commentary on Cochrane Review of buprenorphine’s efficacy for opioid withdrawal

The brief is the first in a series of Cochrane Review summaries by RTI Press

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — A new research brief published by RTI Press, a global publisher of peer-reviewed, open-access publications, offers a summary of a recent Cochrane Review of buprenorphine’s efficacy for managing opioid withdrawal and its implications for research and policy.

The Cochrane Review, published in 2017, found that buprenorphine is similar in efficacy to methadone in terms of severity of withdrawal, withdrawal treatment retention, withdrawal completion and lack of adverse events, and is superior to other opioid withdrawal medicine such as clonidine and lofexidine. However, the review authors rated the quality of evidence behind the findings as “very low to moderate.”

The RTI brief suggests that future research should include varied dosing of buprenorphine, both by frequency and duration, to determine the most effective dose and regimen for managing opioid withdrawal.  

“Data shows that buprenorphine is an effective opioid withdrawal treatment, but more research is needed to identify who will most benefit from using buprenorphine as a medication for withdrawal and how any substitute treatments will impact patients,” said Ina F. Wallace, Ph.D., a senior research psychologist at RTI and lead author of the brief. “Clinical trials that vary the dosing of buprenorphine could make a critical contribution to the body of evidence around the drug.”

The RTI brief points to RECOVER, cohort study that followed participants from one of two studies that examined long-acting buprenorphine, administered monthly for up to 12 months, as one piece of research that has contributed to the gap in knowledge.

It also notes the potential of the HEALing (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Communities Study to contribute evidence related to buprenorphine’s use in opioid withdrawal.

The research brief is the first in a series of Cochrane Review summaries that will be published by RTI Press.

View the full research brief