Long-term management of chronic pain with transdermal buprenorphine: a multicenter, open-label, follow-up study in patients from three short-term clinical trials

Rudolf Likar, Hubertus Kayser, Reinhard Sittl
Clinical Therapeutics 2006, 28 (6): 943-52

BACKGROUND: Transdermal buprenorphine is available in Europe for the treatment of moderate to severe chronic pain. It has been evaluated at doses of 35, 52.5, and 70 microg/h for the management of moderate to severe chronic cancer and noncancer pain in 3 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, each of limited duration (approximately 14 days each). Long-term data are essential to determining the performance of an analgesic in the management of chronic pain.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this follow-up study was to obtain data on the efficacy and tolerability of long-term treatment with transdermal buprenorphine in cancer and noncancer patients with chronic persistent pain of moderate to severe intensity.

METHODS: This was an open-label, uncontrolled, follow-up study in patients from the 3 previous clinical trials who elected to continue treatment with transdermal buprenorphine 35 microg/h and sublingual buprenorphine tablets (0.2 mg) as needed for breakthrough pain. The patch was to be changed every 72 hours throughout the patient's course of pain therapy. At visits every 2 weeks for the first 4 weeks and every 4 weeks for the remainder of study participation, patients evaluated their pain relief retrospectively on a 4-point verbal rating scale. They also rated the ease of patch handling using a 3-point verbal rating scale. Patterns of dose escalation and dose stability were monitored over time. Adherence to therapy was determined based on the number of patients who complied with the dosing schedule. Adverse events were documented by type, intensity, location (systemic or local), and relationship to study medication.

RESULTS: Two hundred thirty-nine patients were included in this follow-up study (120 women, 119 men; 100% white; mean [SD] age, 58 [11.3] years; mean weight, 70.8 [14.7] kg). One hundred thirty-four had cancer-related pain and 105 had pain of noncancerous origin. The mean duration of participation was 7.5 months, and 37 (15.5%) patients participated for >12 months. Maximum study participation was 3.4 years in cancer patients and 5.7 years in noncancer patients. One hundred eighty-eight (78.7%) patients were considered adherent to therapy. The majority (65.9%) of patients managed their pain with the patchalone or took no more than 1 additional sublingual tablet daily for breakthrough pain. At least satisfactory pain relief was reported by 215 (90.0%) patients, and the buprenorphine patch was generally well tolerated. The most common systemic adverse drug reactions were nausea (9.2%), dizziness (4.6%), vomiting (4.2%), constipation (3.8%), and tiredness (2.9%), whereas the most common local adverse drug reactions were erythema (12.1%), pruritus (10.5%), and exanthema (8.8%).

CONCLUSION: Transdermal buprenorphine was generally well tolerated and effective for the long-term treatment of chronic cancer or noncancer pain in these patients who had previously received buprenorphine in 3 short-term clinical trials.

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