Buprenorphine exposure levels to optimize treatment outcomes in opioid use disorder
The severity of the ongoing opioid crisis, recently exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasizes the importance for individuals suffering from opioid use disorder (OUD) to have access to and receive efficacious, evidence-based treatments. Optimal treatment of OUD should aim at blocking the effects of illicit opioids while controlling opioid craving and withdrawal to facilitate abstinence from opioid use and promote recovery. The present work analyses the relationship between buprenorphine plasma exposure and clinical efficacy in participants with moderate to severe OUD using data from two clinical studies (39 and 504 participants). Leveraging data from placebo-controlled measures assessing opioid blockade, craving, withdrawal and abstinence, we found that buprenorphine plasma concentrations sustained at 2–3 ng/ml (corresponding to ≥70% brain mu -opioid receptor occupancy) optimized treatment outcomes in the majority of participants, while some individuals (e.g., injecting opioid users) needed higher concentrations. Our work also included non-linear mixed effects modeling and survival analysis, which identified a number of demographic, genetic and social factors modulating treatment response and retention. Altogether, these findings provide key information on buprenorphine plasma levels that optimize clinical outcomes and increase the likelihood of individual treatment success. NLM identifiers: NCT02044094, NCT02357901.