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Qualitative Analysis of Patient Perspectives of Buprenorphine After Transitioning From Long-Term, Full-Agonist Opioid Therapy Among Veterans With Chronic Pain.

Edmond SN, Wesolowicz DM, Snow JL, Currie S, Jankelovits A, Chhabra MS, Becker WC. Qualitative Analysis of Patient Perspectives of Buprenorphine After Transitioning From Long-Term, Full-Agonist Opioid Therapy Among Veterans With Chronic Pain. The journal of pain. 2024 Jan 1; 25(1):132-141.

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Guidelines recommend consideration of modification, tapering, or discontinuation of long-term, full-agonist opioid therapy when harms outweigh benefits; one alternative to tapering or discontinuing full-agonist opioids for the management of chronic pain is switching to the partial agonist buprenorphine. As the use of buprenorphine for pain expands, understanding the patient experience during and after the transition to buprenorphine is critical. We conducted 45- to 60-minute semistructured qualitative interviews with 19 patients to understand the experiences of patients with chronic pain actively maintained on buprenorphine after previously receiving full-agonist, long-term opioid therapy. Patients were recruited from 2 medical centers via provider referral. Through thematic analysis, 5 overall themes were identified, including satisfaction with buprenorphine, the importance of preconceptions about buprenorphine, experiences with transitions, patient-provider communication, and potential contributions to racial disparities in pain care. While we heard a range of experiences, most patients were satisfied with buprenorphine, reporting either equivalent pain control to their previous regimens or reporting less analgesia but improved functioning due to a reduction in side effects (eg, mental clarity). Patients also emphasized the importance of a nonjudgmental, patient-centered approach, including education about the risks and benefits of buprenorphine. The few Black patients interviewed all reported limited access to pain care, which is consistent with the well-documented existence of racial disparities in access to pain treatment. As buprenorphine is used more frequently for pain management, provider education focused on pain treatment disparities, patient-centered approaches informed by motivational interviewing, and increasing acceptance of buprenorphine as an option for pain are needed. PERSPECTIVE: Qualitative analyses of patient experiences transitioning from full-agonist opioids to buprenorphine for chronic pain revealed general satisfaction. Patients reflected on functioning, tradeoffs between analgesia and side effects, patient-centered care, and access to treatment, highlighting how future research should focus on outcomes valued by patients.

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