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Successful use of buprenorphine-naloxone medication-assisted program to treat concurrent pain and opioid addiction after cancer therapy

Natalie Moryl, MD, Alexandra Filkins, Yvona Griffo, MD, Vivek Malhotra, MD, Raina H. Jain, Ethel Frierson, RN, BSN, OCN, Charles Inturrisi, PhD


Cancer pain is often treated with opioids, a therapeutic regimen that can become a challenge in patients with an opioid use disorder (OUD). While use of the buprenorphine-naloxone combination is an effective medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for OUD, its use in pain patients with OUD has been controversial due to concerns that co-administration of buprenorphine can reduce or block analgesia and precipitate opioid withdrawal in those patients requiring full opioid agonists. Data on its use in cancer pain patients are lacking. In this case series, the authors explore the frequency of buprenorphine-naloxone use and its outcomes in patients in a Comprehensive Care Center (CCC) Pain Registry. OUD was deduced from an International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) diagnostic code for opioid-related disorders recorded in the electronic medical records. Of 2,320 chronic cancer pain patients, 125 patients had ICD-10 code for opioid-related disorders, and 43 had a diagnosis of opioid abuse of whom 11 received buprenorphinenaloxone combinations. Eight patients on 18 (6-24) mg per day of buprenorphinenaloxone remained in therapy for 4 (2-7) years without opioid abuse relapse. This assessment was based on clinician's notes, the Prescription Monitoring Program, random urine drug screening, and the absence of Urgent Care Center visits for opioid withdrawal or overdose. When short-term opioids were administered for acute pain, these patients were able to taper down and stop them quickly without an opioid abuse relapse. Buprenorphine-naloxone was effective as the sole analgesic in selected patients. Given its success at the CCC, buprenorphine-naloxone should be made available and strongly considered as a treatment for patients suffering from OUD during and following cancer treatment and when cancer pain reduces or resolves.


Suboxone, addiction, cancer, co-management, pain, survivors

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