Abuse and diversion of buprenorphine sublingual tablets and film

Eric J. Lavonas, S. Geoffrey Severtson, Erin M. Martinez, Becki Bucher-Bartelson, Marie Claire Le Lait, Jody L. Green, Lenn E. Murrelle, Theodore J. Cicero, Steven P. Kurtz, Andrew Rosenblum, Hilary L. Surratt, Richard C. Dart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Buprenorphine abuse is common worldwide. Rates of abuse and diversion of three sublingual buprenorphine formulations (single ingredient tablets; naloxone combination tablets and film) were compared. Data were obtained from the Researched Abuse, Diversion, and Addiction-Related Surveillance (RADARS®) System Poison Center, Drug Diversion, Opioid Treatment (OTP), Survey of Key Informants' Patients (SKIP), and College Survey Programs through December 2012. To control for drug availability, event ratios (rates) were calculated quarterly, based on the number of patients filling prescriptions for each formulation ("unique recipients of a dispensed drug," URDD) and averaged and compared using negative binomial regression. Abuse rates in the OTP, SKIP, and College Survey Programs were greatest for single ingredient tablets, and abuse rates in the Poison Center Program and illicit diversion rates were greatest for the combination tablets. Combination film rates were significantly less than rates for either tablet formulation in all programs. No geographic pattern could be discerned.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-34
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Financial Support: This research was funded by a grant from Reckitt-Benckiser Pharmaceuticals to the Denver Health and Hospital Authority (DHHA), a Colorado governmental entity, which operates the Researched Abuse, Diversion, and Addiction-Related Surveillance (RADARS ® ) System. This study was conceived, designed, executed, and written by the authors, who had sole control over the data and over the decision to publish. Reckitt-Benckiser Pharmaceuticals received only the right to review the completed manuscript for proprietary information. The DHHA has research and/or consulting agreements with Reckitt-Benckiser Pharmaceuticals and the manufacturers of several generic buprenorphine sublingual products.

Funding Information:
Operation of the RADARS System is supported in part by NIH/NCATS Colorado CTSI Grant Number UL1 TR000154. Contents are the authors' sole responsibility and do not necessarily represent official NIH views. This study was not directly supported by the NIH/CTSI grant.

Funding Information:
Drs. Lavonas, Severtson, Bucher-Bartelson, Green, and Dart, Ms. Martinez, and Ms. Le Lait are employees of the DHHA. No DHHA employee receives bonus or incentive compensation related to the performance of any research grant or contract, and these authors report no additional conflicts of interest. Dr. Murrelle is a Principal of Venebio Group, LLC, which has research and consulting agreements with Reckitt-Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, and reports no additional conflicts of interest. Drs. Cicero, Kurtz, Rosenblum, and Surratt receive grant funding from the RADARS System to their institutions, and report no additional conflicts of interest.


  • Buprenorphine
  • Drug abuse
  • Drug formulations
  • Substance-related disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatric Mental Health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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