Buprenorphine versus methadone in the treatment of pregnant opioid-dependent patients: Effects on the neonatal abstinence syndrome
This study was designed to compare the neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) in neonates of methadone and buprenorphine maintained pregnant opioid-dependent women and to provide preliminary safety and efficacy data for a larger multi-center trial. This randomized, double-blind, double-dummy, flexible dosing, parallel-group controlled trial was conducted in a comprehensive drug-treatment facility that included residential and ambulatory care. Participants were opioid-dependent pregnant women and their neonates. Treatment involved daily administration of either sublingual buprenorphine or oral methadone using flexible dosing of 4–24 mg or 20–100 mg, respectively. Primary a priori outcome measures were: (1) number of neonates treated for NAS; (2) amount of opioid agonist medication used to treat NAS; (3) length of neonatal hospitalization; and (4) peak NAS score. Two of 10 (20%) buprenorphine-exposed and 5 of 11 (45.5%) methadone-exposed neonates were treated for NAS (p = .23). Total amount of opioid-agonist medication administered to treat NAS in methadone-exposed neonates was three times greater than for buprenorphine-exposed neonates (93.1 versus 23.6; p = .13). Length of hospitalization was shorter for buprenorphine-exposed than for methadone-exposed neonates (p = .021). Peak NAS total scores did not significantly differ between groups (p = .25). Results suggest that buprenorphine is not inferior to methadone on outcome measures assessing NAS and maternal and neonatal safety when administered starting in the second trimester of pregnancy.