Suboxone vs buprenorphine: Time for a name change?

For the past 6 years, Reckitt-Benckiser has sold buprenorphine under the brand names ‘Suboxone’ and ‘Subutex’. Buprenorphine has been sold under other names in the past, notably ‘Temgesic’, which was buprenorphine intended for intravenous use by medical professionals treating pain. Many people, myself included, have been anxiously awaiting a less expensive formulation of buprenorphine– for example a generic product. We could also use a number of new formulations of the drug called ‘Suboxone’; it is very difficult to taper in it’s present form, for example, and a large pill with lower concentrations would be a tremendous help. Even better would be a ‘taper pack’; many medications make taper packs for use in STARTING the medication (e.g. Lamictal), and I suppose they see a pack used to STOP a medication to be counter-productive from a sales standpoint. I would argue, though, that having an easy exit strategy in place would increase the number of addicts whoe would accept treatment with buprenorphine. And if the sales angle isn’t persuasive enough, there is always the fact that a taper pack WOULD MAKE LIFE BETTER FOR PEOPLE! If that is not important to the manufacturer, they could always comfort themselves by cranking up the price of a taper pack to get that one last shot at the patient’s wallet.
I have used the word ‘Suboxone’ in my blog and forum (and also in educational youtube videos) because that is the word that people search for. But I have to think that SOME generic company will pick up buprenorphine as it goes off patent– which I think happens next month. And when that happens, I am sure the R-B people would love to hang on to the ‘brand loyalty’ by keeping people using the word ‘Suboxone’. That is what the makers of Tylenol managed to do– people ask for Tylenol, not for ‘acetominophen’. People ask for Motrin, not ‘ibuprofen’. And people ask for ‘Xanax’, even though the generic ‘alprazolam’ is much less expensive. I have no allegiance to RB or ‘Suboxone.’ If anything I am annoyed with the company; unlike other pharmaceutical companies they are very difficult to reach at the corporate level, and when I have attempted to contact someone within the science division or someone in a position to discuss the issues I describe above, I am told that so and so will call– but they never do. Sniff sniff… On the other hand, I have no problem speaking to various levels of other pharmaceutical companies. I have presumed the reason was because Reckitt-Benckiser is a British cleaning products company and they don’t really have it together. But to a large extent I am tired of carrying water for them, and watching the price go up on Suboxone.
In medicine in general, doctors are encouraged to refer to medications by their generic names or by their chemical names. I strongly recommend we learn to do that with buprenorphine. I am probably shooting myself in the foot a bit since my blog responds very well to the search term ‘Suboxone’, but if we don’t make the change, we will all be advertising a product that will eventually have a less-expensive equivalent product. I recommend the term ‘bupe;’ it is easy enough to say, even easier than Suboxone. In fact, if every person talking about Suboxone changes to the word ‘bupe’, that will reduce use of syllables by 66% for that word– as Obama said last night, imagine the cost savings (in the form of time savings– but time is money!) if we could reduce the number of syllables for ALL words! Pretty soon the average male phone call would take 10 seconds instead of 30 seconds, and the average female phone call would drop to less than 30 minutes!

2 thoughts on “Suboxone vs buprenorphine: Time for a name change?”

  1. Great post. I’m surprised the company treated you like that considering you really push there product (because it works not because of money). I’m sure a company will definitely will pick it up since it will go generic. I sure hope so.

  2. Likewise I’m hopeful for a generic equivalent. I am a long term (3+ yr) bupe patient – cash pay, since BCBS (In)Complete dropped it from their covered formulatory about three months after I began treatment. It works for me however, and all in all a combined $700 per month (doc and meds) is still significantly cheaper, healthier, and much less dangerous than active opiate addiction. I trust, Doc, you will let us know when a generic equivalent is available??? I am a faithful appreciative subscriber to your blog, and while I frequently ask my pharmacist whether a generic is on the horizon, I somehow feel he doesn’t go out of his way to check. Thanks for your great work – I hope you continue to find the time to keep it up, and I anxiously await your book.

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