A meta-analysis comparing the effectiveness of buprenorphine and methadone


Increases in the use of illicit opiates have refocused attention on these drugs. One outgrowth of this attention has been the increased consideration of pharmacotherapies to provide alternatives to methadone maintenance. Buprenorphine is one new tool used in the attenuation of illicit opiate use. Like methadone, buprenorphine produces cross-tolerance to other opiates. However, it may have advantages over methadone including a longer duration, limited withdrawal syndrome, and increased safety. Buprenorphine's ability to serve as a replacement drug for illicit opiate use is well documented, and efforts have recently been made to compare the drug with methadone. The purpose of this study was to provide a meta-analysis of all available research reporting a controlled comparison of buprenorphine and methadone. This analysis provided a rating of the comparative efficacy of each drug, thus giving clinicians an additional guide when selecting an appropriate course of treatment. Findings suggest a relative equality in the efficacy of buprenorphine and methadone, although patients receiving methadone were less likely to test positive for illicit opiate use. Past experience with methadone maintenance acted as a moderating variable, however, such that those receiving buprenorphine were more likely to stay drug-free in studies that included patients with prior methadone experience. © 2001 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.

Publication Title

Journal of Substance Abuse