Implications of the buprenorphine shortage
We are aware that there is an issue with the supply and increasing cost of buprenorphine, an essential medication prescribed to many of our service users. Both buprenorphine and methadone are currently used in Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for opioid dependence. In terms of efficacy, they are broadly equivalent choices, but the two medications have fundamentally different pharmacological properties, and therefore a tangible difference in patient experience.
If buprenorphine were to become unavailable, either due to supply shortage or where the costs are so prohibitive that they would directly impact on the other systems essential in delivering safe care, then transfer to methadone has to be considered as a possible option. However, we anticipate this could generate significant anxiety for service users, who would be concerned about the impact on their safety, stability and recovery.
We therefore believe that no treatment provider or commissioning authority should transfer patients from buprenorphine to methadone unless all other options have been exhausted.