Jose Luis Vazquez Martinez

FDA Approves New Buprenorphine Treatment Option for Opioid Use Disorder

Jose Luis Vazquez Martinez - 24 May 2023



For Immediate Release: May 23, 2023

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Brixadi (buprenorphine) extended-release injection for subcutaneous use (under the skin) to treat moderate to severe opioid use disorder (OUD). Brixadi is available in two formulations, a weekly injection that can be used in patients who have started treatment with a single dose of a transmucosal buprenorphine product or who are already being treated with buprenorphine, and a monthly version for patients already being treated with buprenorphine.

“Buprenorphine is an important treatment option for opioid use disorder. Today’s approval expands dosing options and provides people with opioid use disorder a greater opportunity to sustain long-term recovery,” said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D. “The FDA will continue to take the critical steps necessary to pursue efforts that advance evidence-based treatments for substance use disorders, which is a strategic priority under the FDA’s Overdose Prevention Framework.”

Buprenorphine is a safe and effective medication for the treatment of OUD. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), patients receiving medication for their OUD cut their risk of death from all causes in half.

The FDA continues to implement a comprehensive approach to increase options to treat OUD. Earlier this month, the agency issued a joint letter with SAMHSA to clarify the importance of counseling and other services as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for OUD, and to also reiterate that supplying buprenorphine should not be made contingent upon participation in such services. The agency also held a virtual public workshop that highlighted the need for additional strengths and dosing regimens for extended-release formulations. 

Brixadi is approved in both weekly and monthly subcutaneous injectable formulations at varying doses, including lower doses that may be appropriate for those who do not tolerate higher doses of extended-release buprenorphine that are currently available. The weekly doses are 8 milligrams (mg), 16 mg, 24 mg, 32 mg; and the monthly doses are 64 mg, 96 mg, 128 mg. The approved weekly formulation in various lower strengths offers a new option for people in recovery who may benefit from a weekly injection to maintain treatment adherence. Brixadi will be available through a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) program and administered only by health care providers in a health care setting.

The most common adverse reactions (occurring in ≥5% of patients) with Brixadi include injection-site pain, headache, constipation, nausea, injection-site erythema, itchy skin at the injection site (injection-site pruritus), insomnia and urinary tract infections. 

The safety and efficacy of Brixadi were evaluated in a behavioral pharmacology study assessing the ability of two weekly doses of Brixadi to block the subjective effects of opioids, and one randomized, double-blind, active-controlled clinical trial in 428 adults with a diagnosis of moderate-to-severe OUD. After an initial test dose of transmucosal buprenorphine, patients were randomized to treatment with Brixadi plus a sublingual placebo, or active sublingual buprenorphine plus placebo injections. After titration over the first week, patients were treated with weekly injections over 12 weeks and then transitioned to monthly injections for an additional 12 weeks. A response to treatment was measured by urine drug screening and self-reporting of illicit opioid use during the treatment period. Patients were considered responders if they had negative opioid assessments at the end of each of the two treatment phases. The proportion of patients meeting the responder definition was 16.9% in the Brixadi group and 14.0% in the sublingual buprenorphine group. 

The FDA granted approval of Brixadi to Braeburn Inc.

The agency remains focused on responding to all facets of substance use, misuse, substance use disorders, overdose and death in the U.S. through its FDA Overdose Prevention Framework. The framework’s priorities include: supporting primary prevention by eliminating unnecessary initial prescription drug exposure and inappropriate prolonged prescribing; encouraging harm reduction through innovation and education; advancing development of evidence-based treatments for substance use disorders; and protecting the public from unapproved, diverted or counterfeit drugs presenting overdose risks.