Behavioral HealthCASE REPORT

Successful buprenorphine transition while overlapping with a full opioid agonist to treat chronic pain: a case report

Kishan V. Patel, DO; Sidharth Sahni, DPT; and Lanvin F. Taylor, DO
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: April 17, 2022

Accepted: September 20, 2022

Published: October 25, 2022

  • Kishan V. Patel, DO, 

    Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Stratford, NJ, USA

  • Sidharth Sahni, DPT, 

    Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Stratford, NJ, USA

  • Lanvin F. Taylor, DO, 

    Neuro Musculoskeletal Institute, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Stratford, NJ, USA

J Osteopath Med; 123(1): 1-5

Buprenorphine is a partial mu opioid agonist that has been increasingly utilized to treat patients with chronic pain and opioid use disorder (OUD). The drug has proven to provide significant chronic pain relief at low doses ranging from 75 to 1800 mcg. The conventional buprenorphine transitional process delays its introduction until patients begin withdrawal. However, this process can pose a barrier to both patients and providers due to some patients’ inability to tolerate traditional prerequisite withdrawal. To our knowledge, this is a rare reported case to describe a transitional process utilizing buccal buprenorphine in which a patient with chronic pain simultaneously tapered completely off an extended-release (ER) full opioid agonist and uptitrated buprenorphine. The patient was weaned from oxycodone ER 30 mg every 12 h and oxycodone/acetaminophen 10/325 mg 3x/day for breakthrough pain utilizing an unconventional approach. Tapering down to oxycodone ER 20 mg 2x/day for the first 2 weeks was successful. However, reducing to oxycodone ER 10 mg 2x/day for the following 2 weeks presented adherence difficulty and increased breakthrough pain. At this time, buccal buprenorphine was added at 300 mcg daily for 3 days. From days 4 to 6, buprenorphine was increased to 300 mcg 2x/day and oxycodone ER decreased to 10 mg daily. Six days later, oxycodone ER was discontinued and oxycodone/acetaminophen continued as needed. The patient exhibited no signs of withdrawal and adequate relief of symptoms through this tapering process. At the 1-month follow-up, the patient was doing well and was being treated solely with buprenorphine and oxycodone/acetaminophen to control her breakthrough pain. After 5 months, buprenorphine was increased to 600 mcg 2x/day and her oxycodone/acetaminophen decreased to 5/325 mg 3x/day as needed. From the start of the patient’s taper to her current transition, the patient reduced her morphine milligram equivalent (MME) dosage from 135 MME to 22.5 MME. The Clinical Opioid Withdrawal Scale (COWS), which measures the severity of a patient’s opioid withdrawal symptoms, was consistently less than 5. This buprenorphine schedule demonstrated a successful tapering approach for this patient because she had reported improved quality of life and function. A patient-centered osteopathic treatment approach was utilized when the patient presented with mid-taper adherence difficulty. Transitioning patients from full to partial opioid agonists could become an important practice standard for patient safety not only for formal pain management practices but also in primary care, family practice, and even geriatric offices.

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