WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS
Addiction, Abuse, and Misuse
BUTRANS contains buprenorphine, a Schedule III controlled substance. BUTRANS exposes users to the risks of opioid addiction, abuse, and misuse. Because extended-release products such as BUTRANS deliver the opioid over an extended period of time, there is a greater risk for overdose and death, due to the larger amount of buprenorphine present.
Although the risk of addiction in any individual is unknown, it can occur in patients appropriately prescribed BUTRANS. Addiction can occur at recommended doses and if the drug is misused or abused.
Assess each patient’s risk for opioid addiction, abuse, or misuse prior to prescribing BUTRANS, and monitor all patients receiving BUTRANS for the development of these behaviors and conditions. Risks are 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). The potential for these risks should not, however, prevent the proper management of pain in any given patient. Patients at increased risk may be prescribed opioids such as BUTRANS, but use in such patients necessitates intensive counseling about the risks and proper use of BUTRANS, along with intensive monitoring for signs of addiction, abuse, or misuse. Consider prescribing naloxone for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose.
Abuse or misuse of BUTRANS by placing it in the mouth, chewing it, swallowing it, or using it in ways other than indicated may cause choking, overdose and death.
Opioids are sought by drug abusers and people with addiction disorders and are subject to criminal diversion. Consider these risks when prescribing or dispensing BUTRANS. Strategies to reduce these risks include prescribing the drug in the smallest appropriate quantity and advising the patient on the proper disposal of unused drug.
Opioid Analgesic Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS)
To ensure that the benefits of opioid analgesics outweigh the risks of addiction, abuse, and misuse, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) for these products. Under the requirements of the REMS, drug companies with approved opioid analgesic products must make REMS-compliant education programs available to healthcare providers. Healthcare providers are strongly encouraged to do all of the following:
- Complete a REMS-compliant education program offered by an accredited provider of continuing education (CE) or another education program that includes all the elements of the FDA Education Blueprint for Health Care Providers Involved in the Management or Support of Patients with Pain.
- Discuss the safe use, serious risks, and proper storage and disposal of opioid analgesics with patients and/or their caregivers every time these medicines are prescribed. The Patient Counseling Guide (PCG) can be obtained at this link: .
- Emphasize to patients and their caregivers the importance of reading the Medication Guide that they will receive from their pharmacist every time an opioid analgesic is dispensed to them.
- Consider using other tools to improve patient, household, and community safety, such as patient-prescriber agreements that reinforce patient-prescriber responsibilities.
To obtain further information on the opioid analgesic REMS and for a list of accredited REMS CME/CE, call 1-800-503-0784, or log on to
. The FDA Blueprint can be found at .
Life-Threatening Respiratory Depression
Serious, life-threatening, or fatal respiratory depression has been reported with the use of opioids, even when used as recommended, and if not immediately recognized and treated, may lead to respiratory arrest and death. Management of respiratory depression may include close observation, supportive measures, and use of opioid antagonists, depending on the patient’s clinical status [see Overdosage (10)]. Carbon dioxide (CO2) retention from opioid-induced respiratory depression can exacerbate the sedating effects of opioids.
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 dosage increase. Closely monitor patients for respiratory depression, especially within the first 24-72 hours of initiating therapy with and following dosage increases of BUTRANS.
To reduce the risk of respiratory depression, proper dosing and titration of BUTRANS are essential. Overestimating the BUTRANS dosage when converting patients from another opioid product can result in fatal overdose with the first dose.
Accidental exposure to BUTRANS, especially in children, can result in respiratory depression and death due to an overdose of buprenorphine.
Educate patients and caregivers on how to recognize respiratory depression and emphasize the importance of calling 911 or getting emergency medical help right away in the event of a known or suspected overdose.
Opioids can cause sleep-related breathing disorders including central sleep apnea (CSA) and sleep-related hypoxemia. Opioid use increases the risk of CSA in a dose-dependent fashion. In patients who present with CSA, consider decreasing the opioid dosage using best practices for opioid taper.
Patient Access to Naloxone for the Emergency Treatment of Opioid Overdose: Discuss the availability of naloxone for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose with the patient and caregiver and assess the potential need for access to naloxone, both when initiating and renewing treatment with BUTRANS. Inform patients and caregivers about the various ways to obtain naloxone as permitted by individual state naloxone dispensing and prescribing requirements or guidelines (e.g., by prescription, directly from a pharmacist, or as part of a community-based program). Educate patients and caregivers on how to recognize respiratory depression and emphasize the importance of calling 911 or getting emergency medical help, even if naloxone is administered.
Consider prescribing naloxone, based on the patient’s risk factors for overdose, such as concomitant use of CNS depressants, a history of opioid use disorder, or prior opioid overdose. The presence of risk factors for overdose should not prevent the proper management of pain in any given patient. Also consider prescribing naloxone if the patient has household members (including children) or other close contacts at risk for accidental ingestion or overdose. If naloxone is prescribed, educate patients and caregivers on how to treat with naloxone.
Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome
Prolonged use of BUTRANS during pregnancy can result in withdrawal in the neonate. Neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome, unlike opioid withdrawal syndrome in adults, may be life-threatening if not recognized and treated, and requires management according to protocols developed by neonatology experts. Observe newborns for signs of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome and manage accordingly. Advise pregnant women using opioids for a prolonged period of the risk of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome and ensure that appropriate treatment will be available.
Risks from Concomitant Use with Benzodiazepines or Other CNS Depressants
Profound sedation, respiratory depression, coma and death may result from the concomitant use of BUTRANS with benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants (e.g., non-benzodiazepine sedatives/hypnotics, anxiolytics, tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, general anesthetics, antipsychotics, other opioids, alcohol). Because of these risks, reserve concomitant prescribing of these drugs for use in patients for whom alternative treatment options are inadequate.
Observational studies have demonstrated that concomitant use of opioid analgesics and benzodiazepines increases the risk of drug-related mortality compared to use of opioid analgesics alone. Because of similar pharmacological properties, it is reasonable to expect similar risk with the concomitant use of other CNS depressant drugs with opioid analgesics.
If the decision is made to prescribe a benzodiazepine or other CNS depressant concomitantly with an opioid analgesic, prescribe the lowest effective dosages and minimum durations of concomitant use. In patients already receiving an opioid analgesic, prescribe a lower initial dose of the benzodiazepine or other CNS depressant than indicated in the absence of an opioid, and titrate based on clinical response. If an opioid analgesic is initiated in a patient already taking a benzodiazepine or other CNS depressant, prescribe a lower initial dose of the opioid analgesic, and titrate based on clinical response. Follow patients closely for signs and symptoms of respiratory depression and sedation.
If concomitant use is warranted, consider prescribing naloxone for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose.
Advise both patients and caregivers about the risks of respiratory depression and sedation when BUTRANS is used with benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants (including alcohol and illicit drugs). Advise patients not to drive or operate heavy machinery until the effects of concomitant use of the benzodiazepine or other CNS depressant have been determined. Screen patients for risk of substance use disorders, including opioid abuse and misuse, and warn them of the risk for overdose and death associated with the use of additional CNS depressants including alcohol and illicit drugs.
Life-Threatening Respiratory Depression in Patients with Chronic Pulmonary Disease or in Elderly, Cachectic, or Debilitated Patients
The use of BUTRANS in patients with acute or severe bronchial asthma in an unmonitored setting or in the absence of resuscitative equipment is contraindicated.
Patients with Chronic Pulmonary Disease: BUTRANS-treated patients with significant chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or cor pulmonale, and those with a substantially decreased respiratory reserve, hypoxia, hypercapnia, or pre-existing respiratory depression are at increased risk of decreased respiratory drive including apnea, even at recommended dosages of BUTRANS.
Elderly, Cachectic, or Debilitated Patients: Life-threatening respiratory depression is more likely to occur in elderly, cachectic, or debilitated patients because they may have altered pharmacokinetics or altered clearance compared to younger, healthier patients.
Monitor such patients closely, particularly when initiating and titrating BUTRANS and when BUTRANS is given concomitantly with other drugs that depress respiration. Alternatively, consider the use of non-opioid analgesics in these patients.
Cases of adrenal insufficiency have been reported with opioid use, more often following greater than one month of use. If adrenal insufficiency is suspected, confirm the diagnosis with diagnostic testing as soon as possible. If adrenal insufficiency is diagnosed, treat with physiologic replacement doses of corticosteroids. Wean the patient off of the opioid to allow adrenal function to recover and continue corticosteroid treatment until adrenal function recovers. Other opioids may be tried as some cases reported use of a different opioid without recurrence of adrenal insufficiency. The information available does not identify any particular opioids as being more likely to be associated with adrenal insufficiency.
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 been compromised by a reduced blood volume or concurrent administration with certain CNS depressant drugs (e.g., phenothiazines or general anesthetics). Monitor these patients for signs of hypotension after initiating or titrating the dosage of BUTRANS. In patients with circulatory shock, BUTRANS may cause vasodilation that can further reduce cardiac output and blood pressure. Avoid the use of BUTRANS in patients with circulatory shock.
Risks of Use in Patients with Head Injury or Increased Intracranial Pressure, Brain Tumors, Head Injury or Impaired Consciousness
In patients who may be susceptible to the intracranial effects of CO2 retention (e.g., those with evidence of increased intracranial pressure or brain tumors), BUTRANS may reduce respiratory drive, and the resultant CO2 retention can further increase intracranial pressure. Monitor such patients for signs of sedation and respiratory depression, particularly when initiating therapy with BUTRANS.
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.
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.
Thorough QT studies with buprenorphine products have demonstrated QT prolongation ≤ 15 msec. This QTc prolongation effect does not appear to be mediated by hERG channels. Based on these two findings, buprenorphine is unlikely to be pro-arrhythmic when used alone in patients without risk factors. The risk of combining buprenorphine with other QT-prolonging agents is not known.
Consider these observations in clinical decisions when prescribing BUTRANS to patients with risk factors such as hypokalemia, bradycardia, recent conversion from atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure, digitalis therapy, baseline QT prolongation, subclinical long-QT syndrome, or severe hypomagnesemia.
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.
Do not abruptly discontinue buprenorphine in a patient physically dependent on opioids. When discontinuing BUTRANS in a physically dependent patient, gradually taper the dosage. Rapid tapering of buprenorphine in a patient physically dependent on opioids may lead to a withdrawal syndrome and return of pain.
Additionally, the use of BUTRANS, a partial agonist opioid analgesic, in patients who are receiving a full opioid agonist analgesic may reduce the analgesic effect and/or precipitate withdrawal symptoms. Avoid concomitant use of BUTRANS with a full opioid agonist analgesic.
Risks of Use with 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. 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.
Risks of Use in 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.
Risks of Use in Patients with Gastrointestinal Conditions
BUTRANS is contraindicated in patients with known or suspected gastrointestinal obstruction, including paralytic ileus.
The buprenorphine in BUTRANS may cause spasm of the sphincter of Oddi. Opioids may cause increases in the serum amylase. Monitor patients with biliary tract disease, including acute pancreatitis, for worsening symptoms.
Increased Risk of Seizures in Patients with Seizure Disorders
The buprenorphine in BUTRANS may increase the frequency of seizures in patients with seizure disorders, and may increase the risk of seizures in other clinical settings associated with seizures. Monitor patients with a history of seizure disorders for worsened seizure control during BUTRANS therapy.
Risks of 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.
Significant drug interactions with BUTRANS include:
Benzodiazepines: There have been a number of reports regarding coma and death associated with the misuse and abuse of the combination of buprenorphine and benzodiazepines. In many, but not all of these cases, buprenorphine was misused by self-injection of crushed buprenorphine tablets. 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.
Benzodiazepines and Other Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants: Due to additive pharmacologic effects, the concomitant use of benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants, including alcohol, can increase the risk of hypotension, respiratory depression, profound sedation, coma, and death.
CYP3A4 Inhibitors: The concomitant use of buprenorphine and CYP3A4 inhibitors can increase the plasma concentration of buprenorphine, resulting in increased or prolonged opioid effects, particularly when an inhibitor is added after a stable dose of BUTRANS is achieved.
After stopping a CYP3A4 inhibitor, as the effects of the inhibitor decline, the buprenorphine plasma concentration will decrease, potentially resulting in decreased opioid efficacy or a withdrawal syndrome in patients who had developed physical dependence to buprenorphine.
If concomitant use is necessary, consider dosage reduction of BUTRANS until stable drug effects are achieved. Monitor patients for respiratory depression and sedation at frequent intervals.
If a CYP3A4 inhibitor is discontinued, consider increasing the BUTRANS dosage until stable drug effects are achieved. Monitor for signs of opioid withdrawal.
CYP3A4 Inducers: The concomitant use of buprenorphine and CYP3A4 inducers can decrease the plasma concentration of buprenorphine, potentially resulting in decreased efficacy or onset of a withdrawal syndrome in patients who have developed physical dependence to buprenorphine.
After stopping a CYP3A4 inducer, as the effects of the inducer decline, the buprenorphine plasma concentration will increase, which could increase or prolong both therapeutic effects and adverse reactions and may cause serious respiratory depression.
Serotonergic Drugs: The concomitant use of opioids with other drugs that affect the serotonergic neurotransmitter system has resulted in serotonin syndrome.
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs): MAOI interactions with opioids may manifest as serotonin syndrome or opioid toxicity (e.g., respiratory depression, coma).
Mixed Agonist/Antagonist and Partial Agonist Opioid Analgesics: May reduce the analgesic effect of BUTRANS and/or precipitate withdrawal symptoms.
Muscle Relaxants: Buprenorphine may enhance the neuromuscular blocking action of skeletal muscle relaxants and produce an increased degree of respiratory depression.
Diuretics: Opioids can reduce the efficacy of diuretics by inducing the release of antidiuretic hormone.
Anticholinergic Drugs: The concomitant use of anticholinergic drugs may increase risk of urinary retention and/or severe constipation, which may lead to paralytic ileus.
USE IN SPECIAL POPULATIONS:
Pregnancy and Lactation: Prolonged use of opioid analgesics during pregnancy for medical or nonmedical purposes can result in physical dependence in the neonate and neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome shortly after birth.
Opioids cross the placenta and may produce respiratory depression and psycho-physiologic effects in neonates. An opioid antagonist, such as naloxone, must be available for reversal of opioid-induced respiratory depression in the neonate. BUTRANS is not recommended for use in pregnant women during or immediately prior to labor, when use of shorter-acting analgesics or other analgesic techniques are more appropriate.
Lactation studies have not been conducted with BUTRANS, and no information is available on the effects of the drug on the breastfed infant or the effects of the drug on milk production. Because of the potential for serious adverse reactions, including excess sedation and respiratory depression in a breastfed infant, advise patients that breastfeeding is not recommended during treatment with BUTRANS.
Females and Males of Reproductive Potential: Chronic use of opioids may cause reduced fertility in females and males of reproductive potential. It is not known whether these effects on fertility are reversible.
Pediatric Use: The safety and effectiveness of BUTRANS in patients under 18 years of age have 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 (12.3)]. Respiratory depression is the chief risk for elderly patients treated with opioids, and has occurred after large initial doses were administered to patients who were not opioid-tolerant or when opioids were co-administered with other agents that depress respiration. Titrate the dosage of BUTRANS slowly in geriatric patients and monitor closely for signs of central nervous system and respiratory depression.
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.