Belbuca Effective in Treating Pain Long Term

By Pat Anson, Editor

A new opioid film designed to be taken orally twice a day significantly reduces pain and the need for breakthrough pain medication in patients with moderate to severe pain, according to a new clinical study by Endo International (NASDAQ: ENDP). The results of the Phase III study were released this weekend at the International Conference on Opioids in Boston.

Belbuca is the only analgesic formulation of buprenorphine in a sublingual film that is dissolved in the mouth and absorbed through the inner lining of the cheek.

Buprenorphine is an opioid classified as a Schedule III controlled substance, which means it has lower abuse potential than Schedule II drugs, a category that includes opioids such as hydrocodone. Buprenorphine is also used to treat addiction when combined with naloxone.

Over 400 patients with moderate to severe pain took Belbuca for 48 weeks after being titrated to find the most effective dose. During long term treatment, the average daily pain score was about 3 on a scale of 0 (no pain) to 10 (worst pain imaginable).

The need for daily rescue medication to relieve breakthrough pain decreased from an average of 3 tablets to 1.1 tablets.

"Many patients living with chronic pain require long-term treatment to control their suffering, so it is important that patients have options to manage their pain," said Martin Hale, MD, Medical Director of Gold Coast Research, one of the study's investigators. "These new findings support the safety and tolerability of treatment with Belbuca across a broad range of dosage strengths.”

About half of the patients (54%) experienced some type of side effect, including nausea, constipation, headache, vomiting and upper respiratory tract infection.

Belbuca was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in October 2015 for use in patients with pain severe enough to require daily, around-the-clock, long-term opioid treatment and for which alternative treatments are inadequate.

Belbuca utilizes a drug delivery system developed by BioDelivery Sciences (NASDAQ: BDSI). Because the oral film delivers buprenorphine into the bloodstream faster than pills or skin patches, lower doses are needed to treat pain. The film contains one-tenth to one-twentieth the amount of buprenorphine as Suboxone and other products that are used to treat opioid addiction.

Belbuca is available in seven different dosages, allowing physicians to titrate Belbuca to a tolerable dose that provides pain relief with fewer side effects. According to the Healthcare Bluebook, a 75mcg, 60-day supply of Belbuca should cost about $265.

FDA Approves New Opioid Film Patch

By Pat Anson, Editor

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new delivery system for the treatment of chronic pain – the first of its kind to use an oral film patch containing buprenorphine.

The film patch – which will be sold under the brand name Belbuca -- was jointly developed by Endo International (NASDAQ: ENDP) and BioDelivery Sciences (NASDAQ: BDSI). It’s expected to become available early next year.

image courtesy biodelivery sciences

image courtesy biodelivery sciences

Belbuca is designed to dissolve in the mouth, delivering buprenorphine through the inside lining of the cheek and into the bloodstream faster than conventional pills or skin patches. Buprenorphine is a weaker acting opioid that has long been used to treat both addiction and chronic pain.

“Belbuca provides a unique approach for chronic pain management, combining the proven efficacy and established safety of buprenorphine with a novel buccal film delivery system that adds convenience and flexibility," said Richard Rauck, MD, Director of Carolinas Pain Institute in Winston Salem, NC.

"For both opioid-naïve and opioid-experienced patients who require around-the-clock treatment and for whom alternative treatment options are inadequate, Belbuca offers appropriate, consistent pain relief and a low incidence of typical opioid-like side effects.”

Because the film delivers buprenorphine into the bloodstream faster than conventional methods, lower doses are needed to treat pain. Belbuca will be available in seven different dosage strengths, allowing for flexible dosing every 12 hours.

FDA approval of Belbuca was based on two Phase III studies involving over 1,500 patients with moderate to severe chronic low back pain. Patients who used Belbuca reported “statistically significant improvement” in pain relief over a 12-week period, compared to a placebo. The most common adverse reactions to Belbuca were nausea, constipation, headache, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, somnolence, diarrhea, dry mouth, and upper respiratory tract infection.

Buprenorphine is a Schedule III controlled substance, which means it has a lower abuse potential than many other opioids. It may also be easier to get a prescription for than Schedule II drugs such as hydrocodone.

“If you’re going to use an opioid, I think based on its classification, Belbuca really does offer some significant benefits,” said Dr. Mark Sirgo, President and CEO of BioDeliversy Sciences.

“There are two areas this product will be used for. Those that are stepping up from a Motrin-like drug, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, that no longer controls their chronic pain. Those are good candidates for Belbuca. And in those that may already be on a Schedule II product such as Vicodon, one of the oxycodone products or morphine products, where a physician may feel more comfortable using a buprenorphine product than a Schedule II opioid."

Sirgo says Belbuca is also less likely to abused than a pill, because the film patches are difficult to grind or liquefy for snorting or injecting.