What Is a Buprenorphine Patch?

M. DePietro
M. DePietro

The buprenorphine patch is a type of pain medication classified as an opioid. It is applied to the skin in the form of a stick-on patch. Similar to other opioid medications, it is only available by prescription. Since the patch is worn continually for up to a week, it is prescribed for chronic pain. It has been approved by the United States (US) Food and Drug Administration.

As with other opioid pain medication there is a possibility of opioid addiction, so the buprenorphine patch is regulated The US government classifies this as a schedule III controlled drug, which means it is considered less likely to be addictive than other drugs with lesser classifications, including schedule II medications. Although addiction is less likely, patients must understand dependence still can occur and this medicine should only be taken as directed by a doctor.

The buprenorphine patch is made with varying dosages. Doctors will prescribe dosages based on the severity and type of pain. Side effects are possible when using the patch and include headache, nausea, and dizziness. Some people also develop itching around the site of the patch.

Since the patch can interfere with other medications, it’s essential for patients to tell their doctors what else they are taking, including over-the-counter and prescription medicines. Certain antiarrhythmic medications, other pain medications, and muscle relaxants may enhance or diminish the effects of the buprenorphine patch. Certain herbal products also can interfere with the effectiveness of the medication and patients should always discuss these with their doctors.

Learning how to apply the patch correctly is important to get the most pain management and decrease side effects. The buprenorphine patch should only be applied to clean, dry skin that is hairless. Sites that may work well include the upper arm, upper back, or side of the body. If an area is inflamed or the skin is broken, the patch should not be applied to that area.

When using the buprenorphine patch, it is not necessary to prepare the skin by rubbing with an alcohol wipe. Doing so can increase side effects. Once the patch is placed, patients should press it firmly on the skin for at least 15 seconds. The entire patch should make contact with the skin including the edges. Complete contact will help ensure the correct dosage of medication is delivered.

After seven days, the patch should be removed and discarded. A new patch can be applied to a different location on the skin. Patients should not use the same site for application of the patch for at least three weeks to prevent skin irritation.

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