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Included as part of the PRECAUTIONS section.


Abuse Potential

BUTRANS contains buprenorphine, a partial agonist at the mu opioid receptor and a Schedule III controlled substance. Buprenorphine can be abused in a manner similar to other opioid agonists, legal or illicit. Opioid agonists are sought by drug abusers and people with addiction disorders and are subject to criminal diversion. Consider these risks when prescribing or dispensing BUTRANS in situations where there is concern about increased risks of misuse, abuse, or diversion. Concerns about abuse, addiction, and diversion should not, however, prevent the proper management of pain.

Assess each patient's risk for opioid abuse or addiction prior to prescribing BUTRANS. The risk for opioid abuse is increased in patients with a personal or family history of substance abuse (including drug or alcohol abuse or addiction) or mental illness (e.g., major depression). Patients at increased risk may still be appropriately treated with modified-release opioid formulations; however these patients will require intensive monitoring for signs of misuse, abuse, or addiction. Routinely monitor all patients receiving opioids for signs of misuse, abuse, and addiction because these drugs carry a risk for addiction even under appropriate medical use.

Misuse or abuse of BUTRANS by chewing, swallowing, snorting or injecting buprenorphine extracted from the transdermal system will result in the uncontrolled delivery of the opioid and pose a significant risk that could result in overdose and death [see OVERDOSAGE].

Contact local state professional licensing board or state controlled substances authority for information on how to prevent and detect abuse or diversion of this product.

Life-Threatening Respiratory Depression

Respiratory depression is the primary risk of BUTRANS. Respiratory depression, if not immediately recognized and treated, may lead to respiratory arrest and death. Respiratory depression from opioids is manifested by a reduced urge to breathe and a decreased rate of respiration, often associated with a “sighing” pattern of breathing (deep breaths separated by abnormally long pauses). Carbon dioxide (CO2) retention from opioid-induced respiratory depression can exacerbate the sedating effects of opioids. Management of respiratory depression may include close observation, supportive measures, and use of opioid antagonists, depending on the patient's clinical status [see OVERDOSAGE].

While serious, life-threatening, or fatal respiratory depression can occur at any time during the use of BUTRANS, the risk is greatest during the initiation of therapy or following a dose increase. Closely monitor patients for respiratory depression when initiating therapy with

BUTRANS and following dose increases. Instruct patients against use by individuals other than the patient for whom BUTRANS was prescribed and to keep BUTRANS out of the reach of children, as such inappropriate use may result in fatal respiratory depression.

To reduce the risk of respiratory depression, proper dosing and titration of BUTRANS are essential [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION]. Overestimating the BUTRANS dose when converting patients from another opioid product can result in fatal overdose with the first dose. Respiratory depression has also been reported with use of modified-release opioids when used as recommended and not misused or abused.

To further reduce the risk of respiratory depression, consider the following:

  • Proper dosing and titration are essential and BUTRANS should only be prescribed by healthcare professionals who are knowledgeable in the use of potent opioids for the management of chronic pain.
  • BUTRANS is contraindicated in patients with respiratory depression and in patients with conditions that increase the risk of life-threatening respiratory depression [see CONTRAINDICATIONS].

Accidental Exposure

Accidental exposure to BUTRANS, especially in children, can result in a fatal overdose of buprenorphine.

Elderly, Cachectic, and Debilitated Patients

Respiratory depression is more likely to occur in elderly, cachectic, or debilitated patients as they may have altered pharmacokinetics due to poor fat stores, muscle wasting, or altered clearance compared to younger, healthier patients. Therefore, monitor such patients closely, particularly when initiating and titrating BUTRANS and when BUTRANS is given concomitantly with other drugs that depress respiration.

Use in Patients with Chronic Pulmonary Disease

Monitor patients with significant chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or cor pulmonale, and patients having a substantially decreased respiratory reserve, hypoxia, hypercapnia, or pre-existing respiratory depression for respiratory depression, particularly when initiating therapy and titrating with BUTRANS, as in these patients, even usual therapeutic doses of BUTRANS may decrease respiratory drive to the point of apnea. Consider the use of alternative non-opioid analgesics in these patients if possible.

Interactions with Alcohol, CNS Depressants, and Illicit Drugs

Hypotension, profound sedation, coma or respiratory depression may result if BUTRANS is added to a regimen that includes other CNS depressants (e.g., sedatives, anxiolytics, hypnotics, neuroleptics, muscle relaxants, other opioids). When considering the use of BUTRANS in a patient taking a CNS depressant, assess the duration of use of the CNS depressant and the patient's response, including the degree of tolerance that has developed to CNS depression. Additionally, consider the patient's use, if any, of alcohol or illicit drugs that cause CNS depression. If BUTRANS therapy is to be initiated in a patient taking a CNS depressant, start with a lower BUTRANS dose than usual and monitor patients for signs of sedation and respiratory depression and consider using a lower dose of the concomitant CNS depressant [see DRUG INTERACTIONS].

QTc Prolongation

A positive-controlled study of the effects of BUTRANS on the QTc interval in healthy subjects demonstrated no clinically meaningful effect at a BUTRANS dose of 10 mcg/hour; however, a BUTRANS dose of 40 mcg/hour (given as two BUTRANS 20 mcg/hour Transdermal Systems) was observed to prolong the QTc interval [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].

Consider these observations in clinical decisions when prescribing BUTRANS to patients with hypokalemia or clinically unstable cardiac disease, including: unstable atrial fibrillation, symptomatic bradycardia, unstable congestive heart failure, or active myocardial ischemia. Avoid the use of BUTRANS in patients with a history of Long QT Syndrome or an immediate family member with this condition, or those taking Class IA antiarrhythmic medications (e.g., quinidine, procainamide, disopyramide) or Class III antiarrhythmic medications (e.g., sotalol, amiodarone, dofetilide).

Hypotensive Effects

BUTRANS may cause severe hypotension including orthostatic hypotension and syncope in ambulatory patients. There is an increased risk in patients whose ability to maintain blood pressure has already been compromised by a reduced blood volume or concurrent administration of certain CNS depressant drugs (e.g., phenothiazines or general anesthetics) [see DRUG INTERACTIONS]. Monitor these patients for signs of hypotension after initiating or titrating the dose of BUTRANS.

Use in Patients with Head Injury or Increased Intracranial Pressure

Monitor patients taking BUTRANS who may be susceptible to the intracranial effects of CO2 retention (e.g., those with evidence of increased intracranial pressure or brain tumors) for signs of sedation and respiratory depression, particularly when initiating therapy with BUTRANS. BUTRANS may reduce respiratory drive, and the resultant CO2 retention can further increase intracranial pressure. Opioids may also obscure the clinical course in a patient with a head injury.

Avoid the use of BUTRANS in patients with impaired consciousness or coma.


Although not observed in BUTRANS chronic pain clinical trials, cases of cytolytic hepatitis and hepatitis with jaundice have been observed in individuals receiving sublingual buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid dependence, both in clinical trials and in post-marketing adverse event reports. The spectrum of abnormalities ranges from transient asymptomatic elevations in hepatic transaminases to case reports of hepatic failure, hepatic necrosis, hepatorenal syndrome, and hepatic encephalopathy. In many cases, the presence of pre-existing liver enzyme abnormalities, infection with hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus, concomitant usage of other potentially hepatotoxic drugs, and ongoing injection drug abuse may have played a causative or contributory role. For patients at increased risk of hepatotoxicity (e.g., patients with a history of excessive alcohol intake, intravenous drug abuse or liver disease), obtain baseline liver enzyme levels and monitor periodically and during treatment with BUTRANS.

Application Site Skin Reactions

In rare cases, severe application site skin reactions with signs of marked inflammation including “burn,” “discharge,” and “vesicles” have occurred. Time of onset varies, ranging from days to months following the initiation of BUTRANS treatment. Instruct patients to promptly report the development of severe application site reactions and discontinue therapy.

Anaphylactic/Allergic Reactions

Cases of acute and chronic hypersensitivity to buprenorphine have been reported both in clinical trials and in the post-marketing experience. The most common signs and symptoms include rashes, hives, and pruritus. Cases of bronchospasm, angioneurotic edema, and anaphylactic shock have been reported. A history of hypersensitivity to buprenorphine is a contraindication to the use of BUTRANS.

Application of External Heat

Advise patients and their caregivers to avoid exposing the BUTRANS application site and surrounding area to direct external heat sources, such as heating pads or electric blankets, heat or tanning lamps, saunas, hot tubs, and heated water beds while wearing the system because an increase in absorption of buprenorphine may occur [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY]. Advise patients against exposure of the BUTRANS application site and surrounding area to hot water or prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. There is a potential for temperature-dependent increases in buprenorphine released from the system resulting in possible overdose and death.

Patients with Fever

Monitor patients wearing BUTRANS systems who develop fever or increased core body temperature due to strenuous exertion for opioid side effects and adjust the BUTRANS dose if signs of respiratory or central nervous system depression occur.

Use in Patients with Gastrointestinal Conditions

BUTRANS is contraindicated in patients with paralytic ileus. Avoid the use of BUTRANS in patients with other GI obstruction.

The buprenorphine in BUTRANS may cause spasm of the sphincter of Oddi. Monitor patients with biliary tract disease, including acute pancreatitis, for worsening symptoms. Opioids may cause increases in the serum amylase.

Use in Patients with Convulsive or Seizure Disorders

The buprenorphine in BUTRANS may aggravate convulsions in patients with convulsive disorders, and may induce or aggravate seizures in some clinical settings. Monitor patients with a history of seizure disorders for worsened seizure control during BUTRANS therapy.

Avoidance of Withdrawal

Symptoms of withdrawal include restlessness, lacrimation, rhinorrhea, yawning, perspiration, chills, myalgia, and mydriasis. Significant fluid losses from vomiting and diarrhea can require intravenous fluid administration.

When discontinuing BUTRANS, gradually taper the dose [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION]. Do not abruptly discontinue BUTRANS.

Driving and Operating Machinery

BUTRANS may impair the mental and physical abilities needed to perform potentially hazardous activities such as driving a car or operating machinery. Warn patients not to drive or operate dangerous machinery unless they are tolerant to the effects of BUTRANS and know how they will react to the medication.

Use in Addiction Treatment

BUTRANS has not been studied and is not approved for use in the management of addictive disorders.

Patient Counseling Information

See FDA-approved patient labeling (Medication Guide)

Abuse Potential

Inform patients that BUTRANS contains buprenorphine, a Schedule III controlled substance that is subject to abuse. Instruct patients not to share BUTRANS with others and to take steps to protect BUTRANS from theft or misuse.

Life-Threatening Respiratory Depression

Discuss the risk of respiratory depression with patients, explaining that the risk is greatest when starting BUTRANS or when the dose is increased. Advise patients how to recognize respiratory depression and to seek medical attention if they are experiencing breathing difficulties.

Accidental Exposure

Instruct patients to take steps to store BUTRANS securely. Accidental exposure, especially in children, may results in serious harm or death. Advise patients to dispose of unused BUTRANS folding in half and flushing down the toilet.

Risks from Concomitant Use of Alcohol and other CNS Depressants

Inform patients that the concomitant use of alcohol with BUTRANS can increase the risk of life-threatening respiratory depression.

Inform patients that potentially serious additive effects may occur if BUTRANS is used with other CNS depressants, and not to use such drugs unless supervised by a health care provider.

Important Administration Instructions

Instruct patients how to properly use BUTRANS, including the following:

  1. To carefully follow instructions for the application, removal, and disposal of BUTRANS. Each week, apply BUTRANS to a different site based on the 8 described skin sites, with a minimum of 3 weeks between applications to a previously used site.
  2. To apply BUTRANS to a hairless or nearly hairless skin site. If none are available, instruct patients to clip the hair at the site and not to shave the area. Instruct patients not to apply to irritated skin. If the application site must be cleaned, use clear water only. Soaps, alcohol, oils, lotions, or abrasive devices should not be used. Allow the skin to dry before applying BUTRANS.

Inform patients that BUTRANS may cause orthostatic hypotension and syncope. Instruct patients how to recognize symptoms of low blood pressure and how to reduce the risk of serious consequences should hypotension occur (e.g., sit or lie down, carefully rise from a sitting or lying position).

Driving or Operating Heavy Machinery

Inform patients that BUTRANS may impair the ability to perform potentially hazardous activities such as driving a car or operating heavy machinery. Advise patients not to perform such tasks until they know how they will react to the medication.


Advise patients of the potential for severe constipation, including management instructions and when to seek medical attention.


Inform patients that anaphylaxis has been reported with ingredients contained in BUTRANS. Advise patients how to recognize such a reaction and when to seek medical attention.


Advise female patients that BUTRANS can cause fetal harm and to inform the prescriber if they are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

Healthcare professionals can telephone Purdue Pharma's Medical Services Department (1-888-726-7535) for information on this product.

Nonclinical Toxicology

Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility


Buprenorphine administered daily by skin painting to Sprague Dawley rats for 100 weeks at dosages (20, 60, or 200 mg/kg) produced systemic exposures (based on AUC) that ranged from approximately 130 to 350 times that of human subjects administered the maximum recommended human dose (MRHD) of BUTRANS 20 mcg/hour. An increased incidence of benign testicular interstitial cell tumors, considered buprenorphine treatment-related, was observed in male rats compared with concurrent controls. The tumor incidence was also above the highest incidence in the historical control database of the testing facility. These tumors were noted at 60 mg/kg/day and higher at approximately 220 times the proposed MRHD based on AUC. The no observed effect level (NOEL) was 20 mg/kg/day (approximately 140 times the proposed MRHD based on AUC). The mechanism leading to the tumor findings and the relevance to humans is unknown.

Buprenorphine was administered by skin painting to hemizygous Tg.AC mice over a 6-month study period. At the dosages administered daily (18.75, 37.5, 150, or 600 mg/kg/day), buprenorphine was not carcinogenic or tumorigenic at systemic exposure to buprenorphine, based on AUC, of up to approximately 1000 times that of human subjects administered BUTRANS 20 mcg/hour, the MRHD.


Buprenorphine was not genotoxic in 3 in vitro genetic toxicology studies (bacterial mutagenicity test, mouse lymphoma assay, chromosomal aberration assay in human peripheral blood lymphocytes), and in one in vivo mouse micronucleus test.

Impairment of Fertility

BUTRANS (1/4 of a BUTRANS 5 mcg/hour, one BUTRANS 5 mcg/hour, or one BUTRANS 20 mcg/hour every 3 days in males for 4 weeks prior to mating for a total of 10 weeks and in females for 2 weeks prior to mating through gestation day 7) had no effect on fertility or general reproductive performance of rats at AUC-based exposure levels as high as approximately 65 times (females) and 100 times (males) that for human subjects who received BUTRANS 20 mcg/hour, the MRHD.

Use In Specific Populations


Teratogenic Effects (Pregnancy Category C)

There are no adequate and well-controlled studies with BUTRANS in pregnant women. BUTRANS should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the mother and the fetus. In animal studies, buprenorphine caused an increase in the number of stillborn offspring, reduced litter size, and reduced offspring growth in rats at maternal exposure levels that were approximately 10 times that of human subjects who received one BUTRANS 20 mcg/hour, the maximum recommended human dose (MRHD).

Studies in rats and rabbits demonstrated no evidence of teratogenicity following BUTRANS or subcutaneous (SC) administration of buprenorphine during the period of major organogenesis. Rats were administered up to one BUTRANS 20 mcg/hour every 3 days (gestation days 6, 9, 12, & 15) or received daily SC buprenorphine up to 5 mg/kg (gestation days 6-17). Rabbits were administered four BUTRANS 20 mcg/hour every 3 days (gestation days 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, & 19) or received daily SC buprenorphine up to 5 mg/kg (gestation days 6-19). No teratogenicity was observed at any dose. AUC values for buprenorphine with BUTRANS application and SC injection were approximately 110 and 140 times, respectively, that of human subjects who received the MRHD of one BUTRANS 20 mcg/hour.

Non-Teratogenic Effects

In a peri- and post-natal study conducted in pregnant and lactating rats, administration of buprenorphine either as BUTRANS or SC buprenorphine was associated with toxicity to offspring. Buprenorphine was present in maternal milk. Pregnant rats were administered 1/4 of one BUTRANS 5 mcg/hour every 3 days or received daily SC buprenorphine at doses of 0.05, 0.5, or 5 mg/kg from gestation day 6 to lactation day 21 (weaning). Administration of BUTRANS or SC buprenorphine at 0.5 or 5 mg/kg caused maternal toxicity and an increase in the number of stillborns, reduced litter size, and reduced offspring growth at maternal exposure levels that were approximately 10 times that of human subjects who received the MRHD of one BUTRANS 20 mcg/hour. Maternal toxicity was also observed at the no observed adverse effect level (NOAEL) for offspring.

Labor and Delivery

BUTRANS is not for use in women immediately prior to and during labor, where use of short-acting analgesics or other analgesic techniques are more appropriate [see INDICATIONS AND USAGE]. Occasionally, opioid analgesics may prolong labor through actions which temporarily reduce the strength, duration and frequency of uterine contractions. However this effect is not consistent and may be offset by an increased rate of cervical dilatation, which tends to shorten labor.

Opioids cross the placenta and may produce respiratory depression and psychophysiologic effects in neonates. Closely observe neonates whose mothers received opioid analgesics during labor for signs of respiratory depression. An opioid antagonist, such as naloxone, should be available for reversal of opioid-induced respiratory depression in the neonate in such situations.

Nursing Mothers

Buprenorphine is excreted in breast milk. The amount of buprenorphine received by the infant varies depending on the maternal plasma concentration, the amount of milk ingested by the infant, and the extent of first pass metabolism.

Withdrawal symptoms can occur in breast-feeding infants when maternal administration of buprenorphine is stopped.

Because of the potential for adverse reactions in nursing infants from BUTRANS, a decision should be made whether to discontinue nursing or discontinue the drug, taking into account the importance of the drug to the mother.

Pediatric Use

The safety and efficacy of BUTRANS in patients under 18 years of age has not been established.

Geriatric Use

Of the total number of subjects in the clinical trials (5,415), BUTRANS was administered to 1,377 patients aged 65 years and older. Of those, 457 patients were 75 years of age and older. In the clinical program, the incidences of selected BUTRANS-related AEs were higher in older subjects. The incidences of application site AEs were slightly higher among subjects < 65 years of age than those ≥ 65 years of age for both BUTRANS and placebo treatment groups.

In a single-dose study of healthy elderly and healthy young subjects treated with BUTRANS 10 mcg/hour, the pharmacokinetics were similar. In a separate dose-escalation safety study, the pharmacokinetics in the healthy elderly and hypertensive elderly subjects taking thiazide diuretics were similar to those in the healthy young adults. In the elderly groups evaluated, adverse event rates were similar to or lower than rates in healthy young adult subjects, except for constipation and urinary retention, which were more common in the elderly. Although specific dose adjustments on the basis of advanced age are not required for pharmacokinetic reasons, use caution in the elderly population to ensure safe use [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].

Hepatic Impairment

In a study utilizing intravenous buprenorphine, peak plasma levels (Cmax) and exposure (AUC) of buprenorphine in patients with mild and moderate hepatic impairment did not increase as compared to those observed in subjects with normal hepatic function. BUTRANS has not been evaluated in patients with severe hepatic impairment. As BUTRANS is intended for 7-day dosing, consider the use of alternate analgesic therapy in patients with severe hepatic impairment [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, and CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].

Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome

Chronic maternal use of buprenorphine during pregnancy can affect the fetus with subsequent withdrawal signs. Neonatal withdrawal syndrome presents as irritability, hyperactivity and abnormal sleep pattern, high pitched cry, tremor, vomiting, diarrhea and failure to gain weight. The onset, duration and severity of neonatal withdrawal syndrome vary based on the drug used, duration of use, the dose of last maternal use, and rate of elimination drug by the newborn. Neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome, unlike opioid withdrawal syndrome in adults, may be life-threatening and should be treated according to protocols developed by neonatology experts.

Last reviewed on RxList: 7/19/2012
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.


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