108 Warning: Generic Suboxone Not Equal to Name Brand

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Introduction On June 14, 2018, the FDA approved generic buprenorphine/naloxone, as an alternative to the brand Suboxone (FDA,2018). A patient who developed acute withdrawal symptoms when switched from Suboxone to generic buprenorphine/naloxone at the same dosage, with resolution with replacement with brand name Suboxone, is presented. Induction of withdrawal with generic buprenorphine/naloxone has not heretofore been described. Methods Case Study: A 39-year-old right handed single male presented with a past medical history of intravenous heroin dependence. He was relapse free for 5 years and without change on Suboxone film 8mg/2mg twice daily, and was provided with prescriptions for the same, which was substituted to generic brand Dr. Reddy’s Lab SA buprenorphine HCl/naloxone HCl 8mg/2mg film. After two days on this, one hour after taking generic buprenorphine/naloxone film, symptoms of withdrawal began as manifest by hot flashes, diaphoresis, cold chills, leg cramping, and nausea without vomiting. These were the same symptoms he experienced during his past inpatient withdrawal from opioids. These symptoms recurred every day for an entire week until switching back to brand name Suboxone, whereupon his withdrawal symptoms resolved. Discussion The mechanism whereby the generic buprenorphine/naloxone combination induced withdrawal symptoms is unclear. It appears that this generic version was either not effectively blocking the mu receptors or the naloxone was inducing a withdrawal state. Possibly the porous nature of the film was such that less of the buprenorphine was absorbed through the mucosa. As a result, less was transferred into the bloodstream, across the blood brain barrier, to the nucleus accumbens, and ultimately on kappa opioid/mu receptor (Centerwatch, 2002). Alternatively, a greater amount of naloxone may have been absorbed transmucosally, thus inducing withdrawal. The absorption may have been normal, but the exact milligram dosage may not be accurate with either too little buprenorphine or too much naloxone. On the other hand, this buprenorphine compound may have been pH sensitive, such that it became inactivated upon exposure to the mildly acidic salivary pH. He could have been malingering this response. Again this is unlikely since he was not given a higher dose of buprenorphine/naloxone, rather the same dose of Suboxone as previously prescribed. It is important that physicians be aware of the possibility for acute withdrawal and increased cravings, which can lead to relapse while using this agent. Further investigation of the efficacy of the generic variant and Suboxone as replacement therapy is warranted.

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... Contrarily, before this mandated brand-to-generic switch, a single Subutex-maintained (SL tablet) patient expressed a preference for the Suboxone film and was able to switch from the SL tablet to the film with no apparent resistance from the provider or insurance carrier, which switch resulted in the increased satisfaction and adherence of the patient. Better outcomes have been reported to occur when patients have the ability to switch back to a formulation that they feel works better for them, 9 compared to mandated formulations that leave them feeling powerless and with no control over their therapy. ...
... Potential changes in the buprenorphine exposure of the generic versions of Suboxone may have impacted the saturation of the opioid receptors in the patients, causing them to feel sick earlier in the day after taking their daily dose. 9 Several of the cases reported taking higher dosages than those indicated in their daily prescriptions, resulting in their running out of medication before their next refill; some of these patients resorted to illegally purchasing the films on the street. This misuse of buprenorphine/naloxone films (higher doses than prescribed) in comparison with other opioids, even buprenorphine tablets, presents not more than a low risk for diversion, mainly because of the difficulty of injecting them. ...
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Purpose: Differences in the suppression of withdrawal symptoms have been observed in opioid-use-disorder (OUD) patients who were switched from Suboxone (the brand name of buprenorphine/naloxone sublingual films) to either 1 of 2 generic versions. These descriptive observations evidence the need to further assess the use of these generics and its impact on the adherence to and outcomes of OUD treatments. The objective of this case series was to describe patient and provider experiences, perceptions, and preferences when said patients were abruptly switched from Suboxone to one of the generic versions manufactured by Sandoz or Alvogen. Patients and methods: A retrospective chart review of 24 Suboxone-maintained OUD patients from a single clinic who were forced to switch to a generic was performed to collect withdrawal and craving symptoms that occurred after the switch, as well as toxicology results and changes in dose (documented by the provider). Results: The medical records of 9 (37.5%) of the 24 patients showed that they were suffering from withdrawal symptoms and/or cravings, had had their doses adjusted, and/or had had a positive urine toxicology screen. All 9 subjects communicated a preference for the brand formulation over that of either of the generic versions; few expressed a preference for one generic formulation over the other. None of patients were able to switch back to the brand formulation, nor were any of them able to choose the generic that worked best for them. Insomnia, muscle pain, and gooseflesh skin were the most common withdrawal symptoms reported by the patients using the generics. Better outcomes were observed in patients who received a buprenorphine dose increase (2 mg) to suppress the withdrawal symptoms experienced while using the generics. Conclusion: Our study serves as a reference to prescribers regarding approaches (eg, a small dose adjustment) that may potentially encourage OUD treatment adherence and even improve outcomes in patients who appear to be decompensating after the brand-to-generic switch.
... The several studies reporting on patients who experienced withdrawal/craving symptoms following a buprenorphine formulation switch mostly focused on the film-to-tablet change (4); few documented clinical observations of the brand-togeneric sublingual film switch have been made (5). In our case, it is interesting that the patient, whose symptoms worsened when she switched to the generic formulation, even though her exposure to the active drug was increased. ...
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A 56-year-old patient with a 1-year history of stable maintenance treatment with Suboxone for opioid use disorder (OUD) was switched to a generic formulation in May of 2019. The patient reported experiencing-over the course of the following 3 months-withdrawal symptoms when switched to the Alvogen-produced generic formulation in May of 2019 and then to the Sandoz-produced version in July of that same year, she also was positive for fentanyl during that time. As a result, the buprenorphine dose was increased, and the patient was stable at this new dose using the generic versions. Blood levels pre- and post-change (not reported in previous case reports) showed maximum buprenorphine concentration being reached more quickly when the brand-name drug was used. Additionally, the area under the curve (AUC) values indicate that the generic formulation had higher exposures than the brand-name drug. Based on the clinical impact of the brand-to generic switch in this patient, further research in this area is warranted. In the meantime, clinicians should carefully monitor their patients so that, if warranted, dose adjustments can be made quickly and safely to minimize negatively impacting the OUD therapy outcomes of patients.
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