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Keywords:

  • buprenorphine;
  • drug related deaths;
  • seizures;
  • prescription cost analysis;
  • drug addiction;
  • drug mortality

Abstract

Buprenorphine safety in overdose has been debated recently, but no mortality data related to this compound from the UK have been published. To gather together all of the buprenorphine mortality figures, a number of different sources have been checked. To inform on buprenorphine safety issues, accessible information related to its availability indicators (i.e. prescriptions; seizures) data for the 1980–2002 time frame have been sought. In the UK, during this period, buprenorphine was mentioned in 43 fatalities. Typically, victims were males in the 25–44 age group. In 12 cases (28% of total), a verdict of suicide was given. Buprenorphine was detected on its own in seven cases; more frequently, it was found together with benzodiazepines and other opiates. Large quantities of buprenorphine were prescribed both in England in 1985–1989 and in 1991–1992 in Scotland, where seizures reached their highest levels. Buprenorphine prescriptions seemed to peak again after 1999, when high dose buprenorphine formulations entered the UK market. No positive correlation was found between the number of buprenorphine deaths over the years and either buprenorphine dispensings/prescriptions or seizures. However, an increase in buprenorphine-related deaths since 1999 was identified and this may be an issue which should be carefully monitored over the next few years. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.