Human pharmacokinetics of intravenous, sublingual, and buccal buprenorphine

James J. Kuhlman, Shairose Lalani, Joseph Magluilo, Barry Levine, William D. Darwin, Rolley E. Johnson, Edward J. Cone

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195 Scopus citations


Buprenorphine is a potent opioid analgesic used in the treatment of moderate to severe pain. At higher doses, it has demonstrated potential for treating heroin dependence. This study was undertaken to investigate buprenorphine pharmacokinetics by different routes of administration at dosages approximating those used in opioid-dependence studies. Six healthy men who were nondependent but who had a history of heroin use were administered buprenorphine in a crossover design study by intravenous (1.2 mg), sublingual (4.0 mg), and buccal (4.0 mg) routes of administration. Plasma samples were collected up to 96 h and assayed for buprenorphine and norbuprenorphine by negative chemical ionization tandem mass spectrometry. Plasma concentrations of buprenorphine and norbuprenorphine were analyzed by nonlinear regression analysis with standard noncompartmental methods. Buprenorphine bioavailability by the sublingual and buccal routes was estimated as 51.4% and 27.8%, respectively, although there was considerable interindividual variability by both routes of administration. The terminal elimination half-lives were longer for the sublingual and buccal routes than for the intravenous route. The extended elimination half-lives may be due to a shallow depot effect involving sequestration of buprenorphine in the oral mucosa. Nurbuprenorphine mean peak plasma concentrations were less than 1 ng/mL and were highly variable among different routes of administration and individuals. The terminal elimination half-life of norbuprenorphine was longer than buprenorphine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)369-378
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of analytical toxicology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Chemical Health and Safety


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