BUPRENORPHINE: Package Insert and Label Information (Page 4 of 6)

8.2 Lactation

Risk Summary

Based on two studies in 13 lactating women maintained on buprenorphine treatment, buprenorphine and its metabolite norbuprenorphine were present in low levels in human milk and available data have not shown adverse reactions in breastfed infants. The developmental and health benefits of breastfeeding should be considered along with the mother’s clinical need for buprenorphine sublingual tablets and any potential adverse effects on the breastfed child from the drug or from the underlying maternal condition.

Clinical Considerations

Advise breastfeeding women taking buprenorphine products to monitor the infant for increased drowsiness and breathing difficulties.


Data were consistent from two studies (N=13) of breastfeeding infants whose mothers were maintained on sublingual doses of buprenorphine ranging from 2.4 to 24 mg/day, showing that the infants were exposed to less than 1% of the maternal daily dose.

In a study of six lactating women who were taking a median sublingual buprenorphine dose of 0.29 mg/kg/day 5 to 8 days after delivery, breast milk provided a median infant dose of 0.42 mcg/kg/day of buprenorphine and 0.33 mcg/kg/day of norbuprenorphine, equal to 0.2% and 0.12%, respectively, of the maternal weight-adjusted dose (relative dose/kg (%) of norbuprenorphine was calculated from the assumption that buprenorphine and norbuprenorphine are equipotent).

Data from a study of seven lactating women who were taking a median sublingual buprenorphine dose of 7 mg/day an average of 1.12 months after delivery indicated that the mean milk concentrations (Cavg ) of buprenorphine and norbuprenorphine were 3.65 mcg/L and 1.94 mcg/L, respectively. Based on the study data, and assuming milk consumption of 150 mL/kg/day, an exclusively breastfed infant would receive an estimated mean absolute infant dose (AID) of 0.55 mcg/kg/day of buprenorphine and 0.29 mcg/kg/day of norbuprenorphine, or a mean relative infant dose (RID) of 0.38% and 0.18%, respectively, of the maternal weight-adjusted dose.

8.3 Females and Males of Reproductive Potential


Chronic use of opioids may cause reduced fertility in females and males of reproductive potential. It is not known whether these effects on fertility are reversible [see Adverse Reactions (6.2), Clinical Pharmacology (12.2), Nonclinical Toxicology (13.1)].

8.4 Pediatric Use

The safety and effectiveness of buprenorphine sublingual tablets have not been established in pediatric patients.

8.5 Geriatric Use

Clinical studies of buprenorphine sublingual tablets, buprenorphine and naloxone sublingual film, or buprenorphine and naloxone sublingual tablet did not include sufficient numbers of subjects aged 65 and over to determine whether they responded differently than younger subjects. Other reported clinical experience has not identified differences in responses between the elderly and younger patients.

Due to possible decreased hepatic, renal, or cardiac function and of concomitant disease or other drug therapy in geriatric patients, the decision to prescribe buprenorphine sublingual tablets should be made cautiously in individuals 65 years of age or older and these patients should be monitored for signs and symptoms of toxicity or overdose.

8.6 Hepatic Impairment

The effects of hepatic impairment on the pharmacokinetics of buprenorphine were evaluated in a pharmacokinetic study. Buprenorphine is extensively metabolized in the liver and buprenorphine plasma levels were found to be higher and the half-life was found to be longer in subjects with moderate and severe hepatic impairment, but not in subjects with mild hepatic impairment.

For patients with severe hepatic impairment, a dose adjustment is recommended, and patients with moderate or severe hepatic impairment should be monitored for signs and symptoms of toxicity or overdose caused by increased levels of buprenorphine [see Dosage and Administration (2.8), Warnings and Precautions (5.12), Clinical Pharmacology (12.3)].

8.7 Renal Impairment

No differences in buprenorphine pharmacokinetics were observed between 9 dialysis-dependent and 6 normal patients following IV administration of 0.3 mg buprenorphine.


9.1 Controlled Substance

Buprenorphine sublingual tablets contain buprenorphine, a Schedule III controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act.

Under the Drug Addiction Treatment Act (DATA) codified at 21 U.S.C. 823(g), prescription use of this product in the treatment of opioid dependence is limited to healthcare providers who meet certain qualifying requirements, and who have notified the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) of their intent to prescribe this product for the treatment of opioid dependence and have been assigned a unique identification number that must be included on every prescription.

9.2 Abuse

Buprenorphine, like morphine and other opioids, has the potential for being abused and is subject to criminal diversion. This should be considered when prescribing or dispensing buprenorphine in situations when the clinician is concerned about an increased risk of misuse, abuse, or diversion. Healthcare professionals should contact their state professional licensing board or state-controlled substances authority for information on how to prevent and detect abuse or diversion of this product.

Patients who continue to misuse, abuse, or divert, buprenorphine products or other opioids should be provided or referred for more intensive and structured treatment.

Abuse of buprenorphine poses a risk of overdose and death. This risk is increased with the abuse of buprenorphine and alcohol and other substances, especially benzodiazepines.

The healthcare provider may be able to more easily detect misuse or diversion by maintaining records of medication prescribed including date, dose, quantity, frequency of refills, and renewal requests of medication prescribed.

Proper assessment of the patient, proper prescribing practices, periodic re-evaluation of therapy, and proper handling and storage of the medication are appropriate measures that help to limit abuse of opioid drugs.

9.3 Dependence

Buprenorphine is a partial agonist at the mu-opioid receptor and chronic administration produces physical dependence of the opioid type, characterized by moderate withdrawal signs and symptoms upon abrupt discontinuation or rapid taper. The withdrawal syndrome is typically milder than seen with full agonists and may be delayed in onset [see Warnings and Precautions (5.7) ].

Neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS) is an expected and treatable outcome of prolonged use of opioids during pregnancy [see Warnings and Precautions (5.5)].


Clinical Presentation

The manifestations of acute overdose include pinpoint pupils, sedation, hypotension, respiratory depression, and death.

Treatment of Overdose

In the event of overdose, the respiratory and cardiac status of the patient should be monitored carefully. When respiratory or cardiac functions are depressed, primary attention should be given to the re-establishment of adequate respiratory exchange through provision of a patent airway and institution of assisted or controlled ventilation. Oxygen, IV fluids, vasopressors, and other supportive measures should be employed as indicated.

In the case of overdose, the primary management should be the re-establishment of adequate ventilation with mechanical assistance of respiration, if required. Naloxone may be of value for the management of buprenorphine overdose. Higher than normal doses and repeated administration may be necessary. The long duration of action of buprenorphine sublingual tablets should be taken into consideration when determining the length of treatment and medical surveillance needed to reverse the effects of an overdose. Insufficient duration of monitoring may put patients at risk.


Buprenorphine Sublingual Tablets are supplied as white to off white, round flat-faced beveled edged tablets debossed with “RP” on one side and an alphanumeric word identifying product and strength on the other side. They contain buprenorphine HCl, a partial agonist at the mu-opioid receptor, and are available in two dosage strengths, 2 mg buprenorphine and 8 mg buprenorphine (as the free base, equivalent to 2.16 mg buprenorphine hydrochloride USP and 8.64 mg buprenorphine hydrochloride USP, respectively). Each tablet also contains lactose monohydrate, povidone K29/32, anhydrous citric acid, trisodium citrate dihydrate, corn starch, mannitol, crospovidone, and magnesium stearate.

Chemically, buprenorphine HCl is (2S)-2-[17-Cyclopropylmethyl-4,5α-epoxy-3-hydroxy-6-methoxy- 6α,14-ethano-14α-morphinan-7α-yl]-3,3-dimethylbutan-2-ol hydrochloride. It has the following chemical structure:

Chemical Structure

Buprenorphine HCl has the molecular formula C29 H41 NO4 ∙ HCl and the molecular weight is 504.10. It is a white or off-white crystalline powder, sparingly soluble in water, freely soluble in methanol, soluble in alcohol, and practically insoluble in cyclohexane.


12.1 Mechanism of Action

Buprenorphine sublingual tablets contain buprenorphine, a partial agonist at the mu-opioid receptor and an antagonist at the kappa-opioid receptor.

12.2 Pharmacodynamics

Subjective Effects

Comparisons of buprenorphine to full opioid agonists such as methadone and hydromorphone suggest that sublingual buprenorphine produces typical opioid agonist effects which are limited by a ceiling effect.

Opioid agonist ceiling-effects were also observed in a double-blind, parallel group, dose-ranging comparison of single doses of buprenorphine sublingual solution (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, or 32 mg), placebo, and a full agonist control at various doses. The treatments were given in ascending dose order at intervals of at least one week to 16 opioid-experienced subjects who were not physically dependent. Both active drugs produced typical opioid agonist effects. For all measures for which the drugs produced an effect, buprenorphine produced a dose-related response. However, in each case, there was a dose that produced no further effect. In contrast, the highest dose of the full agonist control always produced the greatest effects. Agonist objective rating scores remained elevated for the higher doses of buprenorphine (8 to 32 mg) longer than for the lower doses and did not return to baseline until 48 hours after drug administration. The onset of effects appeared more rapidly with buprenorphine than with the full agonist control, with most doses nearing peak effect after 100 minutes for buprenorphine compared to 150 minutes for the full agonist control.

Physiologic Effects

Buprenorphine in IV (2, 4, 8, 12 and 16 mg) and sublingual (12 mg) doses have been administered to opioid-experienced subjects who were not physically dependent to examine cardiovascular, respiratory, and subjective effects at doses comparable to those used for treatment of opioid dependence. Compared to placebo, there were no statistically significant differences among any of the treatment conditions for blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, O2 saturation, or skin temperature across time. Systolic BP was higher in the 8 mg group than placebo (3-hour AUC values). Minimum and maximum effects were similar across all treatments. Subjects remained responsive to low voice and responded to computer prompts. Some subjects showed irritability, but no other changes were observed.

The respiratory effects of sublingual buprenorphine were compared with the effects of methadone in a double-blind, parallel group, dose ranging comparison of single doses of buprenorphine sublingual solution (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, or 32 mg) and oral methadone (15, 30, 45, or 60 mg) in non-dependent, opioid-experienced volunteers. In this study, hypoventilation not requiring medical intervention was reported more frequently after buprenorphine doses of 4 mg and higher than after methadone. Both drugs decreased O2 saturation to the same degree.

Effects on the Endocrine System

Opioids inhibit the secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), cortisol, and luteinizing hormone (LH) in humans [see Adverse Reactions (6.2)]. They also stimulate prolactin, growth hormone (GH) secretion, and pancreatic secretion of insulin and glucagon.

Chronic use of opioids may influence the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, leading to androgen deficiency that may manifest as low libido, impotence, erectile dysfunction, amenorrhea, or infertility. The causal role of opioids in the clinical syndrome of hypogonadism is unknown because the various medical, physical, lifestyle, and psychological stressors that may influence gonadal hormone levels have not been adequately controlled for in studies conducted to date. Patients presenting with symptoms of androgen deficiency should undergo laboratory evaluation.

Cardiac Electrophysiology

Thorough QT studies with buprenorphine products have demonstrated QT prolongation ≤15 msec.

12.3 Pharmacokinetics


Plasma levels of buprenorphine increased with the sublingual dose of buprenorphine sublingual tablets (Table 4). There was wide inter-patient variability in the sublingual absorption of buprenorphine, but within subjects the variability was low. Both Cmax and AUC of buprenorphine increased in a linear fashion with the increase in dose (in the range of 4 mg to 16 mg), although the increase was not directly dose-proportional.

Table 4 Pharmacokinetic Parameters of Buprenorphine and Norbuprenorphine after the sublingual administration of Buprenorphine Sublingual Tablets
Dose Analyte MeanSD Cmax (ng/mL) Tmax (h) AUCinf (h∙ng/mL) t1/2 (h)
2 mg Buprenorphine MeanSD 1.250.584 1.840.62 10.933.945 31.6612.66
Norbuprenorphine MeanSD 0.3010.127 2.362.75 12.394.526 39.2820.85
8 mg Buprenorphine MeanSD 2.881.14 1.280.46 28.3910.22 35.0114.7
Norbuprenorphine MeanSD 1.380.752 1.752.11 50.1822.61 44.3319.27
16 mg Buprenorphine MeanSD 4.702.16 1.420.50 47.0920.03 36.5113.99
Norbuprenorphine MeanSD 2.651.62 1.521.34 92.3134.74 40.3512.07


Buprenorphine is approximately 96% protein bound, primarily to alpha and beta globulin.



Buprenorphine undergoes both N-dealkylation to norbuprenorphine and glucuronidation. The N-dealkylation pathway is mediated primarily by CYP3A4. Norbuprenorphine, the major metabolite, can further undergo glucuronidation. Norbuprenorphine has been found to bind opioid receptors in vitro; however, it is not known whether norbuprenorphine contributes to the overall effect of buprenorphine sublingual tablets.


A mass balance study of buprenorphine showed complete recovery of radiolabel in urine (30%) and feces (69%) collected up to 11 days after dosing. Almost all of the dose was accounted for in terms of buprenorphine, norbuprenorphine, and two unidentified buprenorphine metabolites. In urine, most of buprenorphine and norbuprenorphine was conjugated (buprenorphine, 1% free and 9.4% conjugated; norbuprenorphine, 2.7% free and 11% conjugated). In feces, almost all of the buprenorphine and norbuprenorphine were free (buprenorphine, 33% free and 5% conjugated; norbuprenorphine, 21% free and 2% conjugated).

When buprenorphine sublingual tablets are administered sublingually, buprenorphine has a mean elimination half-life from plasma ranging from 31 to 35 hours.

Drug Interactions Studies:

CYP3A4 Inhibitors and Inducers

Buprenorphine has been found to be a CYP2D6 and CYP3A4 inhibitor and its major metabolite, norbuprenorphine has been found to be a moderate CYP2D6 inhibitor in in vitro studies employing human liver microsomes. However, the relatively low plasma concentrations of buprenorphine and norbuprenorphine resulting from therapeutic doses are not expected to raise significant drug-drug interaction concerns [see Drug Interactions (7)].

Specific Populations

Hepatic Impairment

In a pharmacokinetic study, the disposition of buprenorphine was determined after administering a 2.0 mg/0.5 mg buprenorphine and naloxone sublingual tablet in subjects with varied degrees of hepatic impairment as indicated by Child-Pugh criteria. The disposition of buprenorphine in patients with hepatic impairment was compared to disposition in subjects with normal hepatic function.

In subjects with mild hepatic impairment, the changes in mean Cmax , AUC0-last , and half-life values of buprenorphine were not clinically significant.

For subjects with moderate and severe hepatic impairment, mean Cmax , AUC0-last , and half-life values of buprenorphine were increased (Table 5) [see Warnings and Precautions (5.12), Use in Specific Populations (8.6)].

Table 5 Changes in Buprenorphine Pharmacokinetic Parameters in Subjects with Moderate and Severe Hepatic Impairment
Hepatic Impairment PK Parameters Increase in buprenorphine compared to healthy subjects
Moderate Cmax 8%
AUC0-last 64%
Half-life 35%
Severe Cmax 72%
AUC0-last 181%
Half-life 57%

HCV infection

In subjects with HCV infection but no sign of hepatic impairment, the changes in the mean Cmax , AUC0-last , and half-life values of buprenorphine were not clinically significant in comparison to healthy subjects without HCV infection.

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