July 31, 2016
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Side Effects


Because clinical trials are conducted under widely varying conditions, adverse reaction rates observed in the clinical trials of a drug cannot be directly compared to rates in the clinical trials of another drug and may not reflect the rates observed in practice.

Clinical Trials Experience

The safety of SUBOXONE sublingual film is supported by clinical trials using SUBUTEX (buprenorphine) sublingual tablets and SUBOXONE (buprenorphine and naloxone) sublingual tablets, and other trials using buprenorphine sublingual solutions, as well as an open-label study in 194 patients treated with SUBOXONE sublingual film administered sublingually and 188 patients treated with the film administered buccally. In total, safety data from clinical studies are available from over 3000 opioid-dependent subjects exposed to buprenorphine at doses in the range used in the treatment of opioid dependence. Few differences in the adverse event profile were noted with regard to sublingually and bucally administered SUBOXONE sublingual film, SUBOXONE (buprenorphine and naloxone) sublingual tablets, SUBUTEX (buprenorphine) sublingual tablets and a buprenorphine ethanolic sublingual solution.

The most common adverse event ( > 1%) associated with the sublingual administration of the SUBOXONE sublingual film was oral hypoesthesia. Other adverse events were constipation, glossodynia, oral mucosal erythema, vomiting, intoxication, disturbance in attention, palpitations, insomnia, withdrawal syndrome, hyperhidrosis, and blurred vision.

The most common adverse events associated with the buccal administration were similar to those observed with sublingual administration of the film.

Other adverse event data were derived from larger, controlled studies of SUBOXONE (buprenorphine and naloxone) sublingual tablets and SUBUTEX (buprenorphine) tablets and of buprenorphine sublingual solution. In a comparative study of SUBOXONE (buprenorphine and naloxone) sublingual tablets and SUBUTEX (buprenorphine) sublingual tablets, adverse event profiles were similar for subjects treated with 16 mg/4 mg SUBOXONE (buprenorphine and naloxone) sublingual tablets or 16 mg SUBUTEX (buprenorphine) sublingual tablets. The following adverse events were reported to occur by at least 5% of patients in a 4 week study of SUBOXONE (buprenorphine and naloxone) sublingual tablets and SUBUTEX (buprenorphine) sublingual tablets.

Table 2: Adverse Events ( ≥ 5%) by Body System and Treatment Group in a 4 Week Study

Body System/ Adverse Event (COSTART Terminology) SUBOXONE (buprenorphine and naloxone) sublingual tablets 16 mg/4 mg/day
n (%)
SUBUTEX (buprenorphine) sublingual tablets 16 mg/day
n (%)
n (%)
Body as a Whole
Asthenia 7 (6.5%) 5 (4.9%) 7 (6.5%)
Chills 8 (7.5%) 8 (7.8%) 8 (7.5%)
Headache 39 (36.4%) 30 (29.1%) 24 (22.4%)
Infection 6 (5.6%) 12 (11.7%) 7 (6.5%)
Pain 24 (22.4%) 19 (18.4%) 20 (18.7%)
Pain abdomen 12 (11.2%) 12 (11.7%) 7 (6.5%)
Pain back 4 (3.7%) 8 (7.8%) 12 (11.2%)
Withdrawal syndrome 27 (25.2%) 19 (18.4%) 40 (37.4%)
Cardiovascular System
Vasodilation 10 (9.3%) 4 (3.9%) 7 (6.5%)
Digestive System
Constipation 13 (12.1%) 8 (7.8%) 3 (2.8%)
Diarrhea 4 (3.7%) 5 (4.9%) 16 (15.0%)
Nausea 16 (15.0%) 14 (13.6%) 12 (11.2%)
Vomiting 8 (7.5%) 8 (7.8%) 5 (4.7%)
Nervous System
Insomnia 15 (14.0%) 22 (21.4%) 17 (15.9%)
Respiratory System
Rhinitis 5 (4.7%) 10 (9.7%) 14 (13.1%)
Skin And Appendages
Sweating 15 (14.0%) 13 (12.6%) 11 (10.3%)
Abbreviations: COSTART = Coding Symbols for Thesaurus of Adverse Reaction Terms.

The adverse event profile of buprenorphine was also characterized in the dose-controlled study of a buprenorphine ethanolic solution, over a range of doses in four months of treatment. Table 3 shows adverse events reported by at least 5% of subjects in any dose group in the dose-controlled trial.

Table 3: Advers e Events ( ≥ 5%) by Body System and Treatment Group in a 16 Week Study

Body System/ Adverse Event (COSTART Terminology) Buprenorphine Dose
Very Low*
n (%)
n (%)
n (%)
n (%)
n (%)
Body as a Whole
Abscess 9 (5%) 2 (1%) 3 (2%) 2 (1%) 16 (2%)
Asthenia 26 (14%) 28 (16%) 26 (14%) 24 (13%) 104 (14%)
Chills 11 (6%) 12 (7%) 9 (5%) 10 (6%) 42 (6%)
Fever 7 (4%) 2 (1%) 2 (1%) 10 (6%) 21 (3%)
Flusyndrome 4 (2%) 13 (7%) 19 (10%) 8 (4%) 44 (6%)
Headache 51 (28%) 62 (34%) 54 (29%) 53 (29%) 220 (30%)
Infection 32 (17%) 39 (22%) 38 (20%) 40 (22%) 149 (20%)
Injury accidental 5 (3%) 10 (6%) 5 (3%) 5 (3%) 25 (3%)
Pain 47 (26%) 37 (21%) 49 (26%) 44 (24%) 177 (24%)
Pain back 18 (10%) 29 (16%) 28 (15%) 27 (15%) 102 (14%)
Withdrawal syndrome 45 (24%) 40 (22%) 41 (22%) 36 (20%) 162 (22%)
Digestive System
Constipation 10 (5%) 23 (13%) 23 (12%) 26 (14%) 82 (11%)
Diarrhea 19 (10%) 8 (4%) 9 (5%) 4 (2%) 40 (5%)
Dyspepsia 6 (3%) 10 (6%) 4 (2%) 4 (2%) 24 (3%)
Nausea 12 (7%) 22 (12%) 23 (12%) 18 (10%) 75 (10%)
Vomiting 8 (4%) 6 (3%) 10 (5%) 14 (8%) 38 (5%)
Nervous System
Anxiety 22 (12%) 24 (13%) 20 (11%) 25 (14%) 91 (12%)
Depression 24 (13%) 16 (9%) 25 (13%) 18 (10%) 83 (11%)
Dizziness 4 (2%) 9 (5%) 7 (4%) 11 (6%) 31 (4%)
Insomnia 42 (23%) 50 (28%) 43 (23%) 51 (28%) 186 (25%)
Nervousness 12 (7%) 11 (6%) 10 (5%) 13 (7%) 46 (6%)
Somnolence 5 (3%) 13 (7%) 9 (5%) 11 (6%) 38 (5%)
Respiratory System
Cough increase 5 (3%) 11 (6%) 6 (3%) 4 (2%) 26 (4%)
Pharyngitis 6 (3%) 7 (4%) 6 (3%) 9 (5%) 28 (4%)
Rhinitis 27 (15%) 16 (9%) 15 (8%) 21 (12%) 79 (11%)
Skin and Appendages
Sweat 23 (13%) 21 (12%) 20 (11%) 23 (13%) 87 (12%)
Special Senses
Runny eyes 13 (7%) 9 (5%) 6 (3%) 6 (3%) 34 (5%)
*Sublingual solution. Doses in this table cannot necessarily be delivered in tablet form, but for comparison purposes:
1 mg solution would be less than a tablet dose of 2 mg
4 mg solution approximates a 6 mg tablet dose
8 mg solution approximates a 12 mg tablet dose
16 mg solution approximates a 24 mg tablet dose

The safety of SUBOXONE sublingual film during treatment induction is supported by a clinical trial using 16 patients treated with SUBOXONE sublingual film and 18 treated with a buprenorphine-only sublingual film. Few differences in the adverse event profiles were noted between SUBOXONE sublingual film and the buprenorphine-only sublingual film.

The most common adverse event occurring during treatment induction and the 3 days following induction using SUBOXONE sublingual film was restlessness. Other adverse events were anxiety, piloerection, stomach discomfort, irritability, headache, rhinorrhea, cold sweat, arthralgia, and lacrimation increased.

Four subjects left the study early on the first day of sublingual film administration. However, there was not evidence to suggest that any of the four subjects experienced precipitated withdrawal secondary to the administration of buprenorphine or buprenorphine/naloxone sublingual films.

Postmarketing Experience

The following adverse reactions have been identified during post-approval use of SUBOXONE sublingual film. Because these reactions are reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequency or establish a causal relationship to drug exposure.

The most frequently reported postmarketing adverse events were peripheral edema, stomatitis, glossitis, and blistering and ulceration of the mouth or tongue.

Read the Suboxone (buprenorphine hcl and naloxone hcl) Side Effects Center for a complete guide to possible side effects


Cytochrome P-450 3A4 (CYP3A4) Inhibitors And Inducers

Buprenorphine is metabolized to norbuprenorphine primarily by cytochrome CYP3A4; therefore, potential interactions may occur when SUBOXONE sublingual film is given concurrently with agents that affect CYP3A4 activity. The concomitant use of SUBOXONE sublingual film with CYP3A4 inhibitors (e.g., azole antifungals such as ketoconazole, macrolide antibiotics such as erythromycin, and HIV protease inhibitors) should be monitored and may require dose-reduction of one or both agents.

The interaction of buprenorphine with CYP3A4 inducers has not been studied; therefore, it is recommended that patients receiving SUBOXONE sublingual film be monitored for signs and symptoms of opioid withdrawal if inducers of CYP3A4 (e.g., efavirenz, phenobarbital, carbamazepine, phenytoin, rifampicin) are coadministered [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].


Three classes of antiretroviral agents have been evaluated for CYP3A4 interactions with buprenorphine. Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) do not appear to induce or inhibit the P450 enzyme pathway, thus no interactions with buprenorphine are expected. Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) are metabolized principally by CYP3A4. Efavirenz, nevirapine and etravirine are known CYP3A inducers whereas delavirdine is a CYP3A inhibitor. Significant pharmacokinetic interactions between NNRTIs (e.g., efavirenz and delavirdine) and buprenorphine have been shown in clinical studies, but these pharmacokinetic interactions did not result in any significant pharmacodynamic effects. It is recommended that patients who are on chronic buprenorphine treatment have their dose monitored if NNRTIs are added to their treatment regimen. Studies have shown some antiretroviral protease inhibitors (PIs) with CYP3A4 inhibitory activity (nelfinavir, lopinavir/ritonavir, ritonavir) have little effect on buprenorphine pharmacokinetic and no significant pharmacodynamic effects. Other PIs with CYP3A4 inhibitory activity (atazanavir and atazanavir/ritonavir) resulted in elevated levels of buprenorphine and norbuprenorphine and patients in one study reported increased sedation. Symptoms of opioid excess have been found in post-marketing reports of patients receiving buprenorphine and atazanavir with and without ritonavir concomitantly. Monitoring of patients taking buprenorphine and atazanavir with and without ritonavir is recommended, and dose reduction of buprenorphine may be warranted.


There have been a number of postmarketing reports regarding coma and death associated with the concomitant use of buprenorphine and benzodiazepines. In many, but not all, of these cases, buprenorphine was misused by self-injection. Preclinical studies have shown that the combination of benzodiazepines and buprenorphine altered the usual ceiling effect on buprenorphine-induced respiratory depression, making the respiratory effects of buprenorphine appear similar to those of full opioid agonists. SUBOXONE sublingual film should be prescribed with caution to patients taking benzodiazepines or other drugs that act on the CNS, regardless of whether these drugs are taken on the advice of a physician or are being abused/misused. Patients should be warned that it is extremely dangerous to self-administer non-prescribed benzodiazepines while taking SUBOXONE sublingual film, and should also be cautioned to use benzodiazepines concurrently with SUBOXONE sublingual film only as directed by their physician.

Drug Abuse And Dependence

Controlled Substance

Buprenorphine is a Schedule III narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act.

Under the Drug Addiction Treatment Act (DATA) codified at 21 U.S.C. 823(g), prescription us e of this product in the treatment of opioid dependence is limited to physicians 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.


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 with 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 physician 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.


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].

Neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS) is an expected and treatable outcome of prolonged use of opioids during pregnancy [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

Last reviewed on RxList: 7/25/2016

Side Effects

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