It’s Positioned as the “Go-To Drug To Treat Opioid Addiction” But it has Downsides

Summary and Analysis

This story highlights both arguments for and against the use of buprenorphine (Suboxone) to address the opioid crisis. The primary argument for is that it can save lives by helping patients to manage withdrawal symptoms. 

The primary arguments against include: its widespread diversion to illegal use, the tendency for pharmacies where it is sold to become high-value targets for heroin dealers looking for receptive audiences and an unfortunate trend that sees doctors prescribing it for extended periods with no intent to taper patients.

The article unequivocally concludes that "bupe" should be more widely available but at least it does present the counter argument which is often missing from other similar articles. However, the article omits any mention of the pharmaceutical industry's large, continuing investments in promoting buprenorphine, particularly in response to the decrease in sales of other opioids.

Excerpted from NPR


Louis Morano knows what he needs, and he knows where to get it.

Morano, 29, has done seven stints in rehab for opioid addiction in the past 15 years. So, he has come to a mobile medical clinic parked on a corner of Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood, in the geographical heart of the city’s overdose crisis. People call the mobile clinic the “bupe bus.”

Buprenorphine is a drug, also known by its brand name, Suboxone, that curbs cravings and treats the symptoms of withdrawal from opioid addiction. Combined with cognitive behavioral therapy, it is one of the three FDA-approved medicinesconsidered the gold standard for opioid-addiction treatment.

There are a number of reasons some pharmacists say they are hesitant.

Just a few blocks away from the bupe bus in Kensington, for example, Richard Ost owns an independent pharmacy. He says his store was one of the first in the neighborhood to stock buprenorphine. But after a while, Ost started noticing that people were not using the medication as directed — they were selling it instead.