Vol. 3 No. 11 (2023)
Health Technology Reviews

Buprenorphine-Naloxone Film Versus Tablets for Opioid Use Disorder

Published November 2, 2023

Key Messages

What Is the Issue?

  • Medication for opioid use disorder is essential for reducing cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and facilitating recovery, with buprenorphine being preferred over methadone by health care providers and people with opioid use disorder due to its lower overdose risk and perceived lower side effect profile.
  • In Canada, buprenorphine is available in various formulations, including buprenorphine-naloxone (BUP-NAL), commonly chosen for its safety benefits and convenience.
  • Sublingual buprenorphine-naloxone films offer faster dissolution and potentially other benefits compared to sublingual tablets, evaluating their comparative clinical and cost-effectiveness is important as they become more widely available.

What Did We Do?

  • To inform decisions about the appropriate selection of BUP-NAL formulations for treating individuals with opioid use disorder, CADTH sought to identify and summarize literature comparing the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of sublingual BUP-NAL films versus tablets. We also attempted to identify evidence-based recommendations for the use of BUP-NAL film.
  • A research information specialist conducted a literature search of the peer-reviewed and grey literature with a search strategy focused on sublingual BUP-NAL. The search was limited to English-language documents published since January 1, 2018. One reviewer screened articles for inclusion based on predefined criteria, critically appraised the included study, and narratively summarized the findings.

What Did We Find?

  • Sublingual BUP-NAL films may have lower abuse rates compared to sublingual BUP-NAL tablets among people who seek treatment at substance abuse treatment centres or who present needing medical advice or treatment for intentional misuse or abuse of potentially toxic substances, including opioids (1 study).
  • We did not find any clinical effectiveness studies that assessed aspects related to drug ingestion, drug abuse cessation, treatment programs, health-related quality of life, mental health or safety of BUP-NAL films or tablets that met our criteria for this review.
  • We did not find any studies on cost-effectiveness or evidence-based guidelines of sublingual BUP-NAL films or tablets that met our criteria for this review.

What Does It Mean?

  • Limited evidence from this review suggests that sublingual BUP-NAL films may lead to lower substance abuse rates compared to sublingual BUP-NAL tablets among people with OUD; however, we require more comprehensive research with rigorous methodological approaches to understand this topic better.
  • Considering the low abuse potential for BUP-NAL film, decision-makers may wish to use this formulation in settings where the potential for substance abuse is high.