Management of opioid addiction with buprenorphine: French history and current management
Pierre Poloméni,1 Raymund Schwan2,3
1Department of Addictology, Paris Seine Saint Denis University Hospital, AP-HP, Site René Muret Sevran, France; 2Care Center for the Treatment and Prevention of Addictions (CSAPA), Nancy University Hospital, 3General Psychiatric Division for the Greater Nancy Urban Community, Psychotherapeutic Center of Nancy, Laxou, France
Abstract: The way in which opioid addiction is managed in France is unique, as it is based on the prescription of buprenorphine by general practitioners and is dispensed by retail pharmacies. This policy has had a direct, positive impact on the number of deaths caused by heroin overdose, which was reduced by four-fifths between 1994 and 2002. In addition, certain associated comorbidities, such as infection with the human immunodeficiency virus, have also been reduced; the incidence of acquired immune deficiency syndrome in intravenous drug users fell from 25% in the mid-1990s to 6% in 2010. Since the implementation of this French model of opioid management, major scientific progress has been made, leading to a better understanding of the pathophysiologic mechanisms of addiction and of the management modalities required for its treatment. However, despite notable advances in scientific knowledge and in the implementation of devices, opioid addiction remains a major public health care issue in France, with 275,000–360,000 "problem drug users" being reported in 2011. The situation is still particularly worrying due to psychoactive substance use and misuse of opioid substitution treatments. Since 2003, there has been a persistent increase in the number of deaths and comorbidities related to opioid addiction, principally hepatitis C virus infection, which affects up to 40% of intravenous drug users. In France, the direct involvement of general practitioners in the management of opioid addiction is indisputable. Nevertheless, management could be optimized through better understanding of the pathophysiologic mechanisms of the disease, better knowledge of the pharmacology of opioid substitution treatments, and clear definition of short-, medium- and long-term treatment objectives. Data related to the management of opioid addiction by general practitioners in France have been published in 2005. Since then, the context has changed, other drugs were launched on the market such as generics of buprenorphine, methadone capsule, and Suboxone. Thus, an update seems necessary. This paper provides a description of opioid addiction management objectives and treatment modalities for general practitioners, based on currently available knowledge.
Keywords: opioid addiction, withdrawal, opioid substitution treatment, buprenorphine, naloxone, general medicine
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