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Drug to treat opioid addiction poses risks for accidental exposure to children
Date:12/14/2012

(SALT LAKE CITY)Buprenorphine is a safe and effective drug for treating opioid addiction. But as the prescribed use of buprenorphine has dramatically increased in recent years, accidental exposure of children to the drug has risen sharply, placing them at risk for serious injury and in extremely rare cases even death, according to researchers at the Utah Poison Control Center (UPCC), U School of Medicine's Department of Family and Preventive Health, and the Utah Department of Health (UDOH).

In a study published Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Utah experts urge physicians to carefully educate their patients about the proper storage and use of buprenorphine, which is available under the names of Suboxone (a combination with another drug) and Subutex, about the proper storage and use of the drug. Karen C. Thomas, Pharm.D., Ph.D., certified poison information specialist at the UPCC and adjunct professor of pharmacotherapy, and Christina A. Porucznik, Ph.D., assistant professor of family and preventive medicine, led the study.

"A toddler or child who ingests buprenorphine can become extremely sick," says Thomas. "Therefore, it is critical that patients prescribed this drug understand how dangerous it can be for children and how to properly store it."

The dangers of buprenorphine exposures in children include:

  • If a child "mouths" or sucks on the tablet, the absorption increases dramatically compared to if a child immediately swallows a tablet.
  • Buprenorphine has the potential to cause delayed and persistent respiratory depression for more than 24 hours following ingestion. Even if the majority of the tablet or film packaging was immediately removed from a child's mouth, the risk for respiratory depression remains.
  • In children younger than 6, clinical effects include drowsiness, vomiting, miosis (contraction of the pupil), agitation, tachycardia (abnormally
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Contact: Marty Malheiro
801-587-0603
University of Utah Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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