Med Conference: Buprenorphine Effective for Addiction Treatment

Attendees at a presentation during Hospital Medicine 2018 learned that the drug buprenorphine is appropriate to prescribe for hospitalized patients with opioid use disorders. The same medication is also effective for treating the acute pain experienced by patients being treated using buprenorphine.

Significant Increase in Drug Overdose Deaths

Dr. Anika Alvanzo, from John Hopkins Medicine, made a presentation at the conference. She referred to the significant increase in drug overdose deaths over the past 20 years. The number of fatalities jumped from three percent per year between 2006-2014 and 18 percent per year in the years 2014-2016. Dr. Alvanzo said that a large number of these deaths can be linked to increased use of synthetic opioids.

Types of Prescription Pain Medications

While some people refer to opioids to describe all types of prescription pain medications, they differ in the way they are made.

• Opiates are natural pain medications that are derived from opium. The opium is extracted from the opium poppy and is used to make medications such as morphine and codeine.
• Synthetic opioids are manufactured by humans and include methadone and fentanyl.
• Semi-synthetic opioids are a hybrid made from making chemical modifications to opiates. Drugs in this category include oxycodone, hydromorphone and buprenorphine.

Buprenorphine Availability a Bridge to Treatment for Opioid Use Disorders

Dr. Alvanzo stated during her presentation that there are currently three medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating opioid use disorder: buprenorphine, naltrexone and methadone. She went on to say that when buprenorphine is prescribed to patients on discharge from hospital, it “significantly increases” the likelihood that the patient will seek professional treatment. Approximately 75 percent of patients were in treatment one month after discharge.

The doctor urged her colleagues attending Hospital Medicine 2018 to consider getting their buprenorphine certification so that they can order the drug within the hospital and at discharge for patients. She referred to buprenorphine availability as a “bridge to treatment” for opioid use disorders patients.