The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) established the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network (CTN) in 1999 to bring researchers and treatment providers together to develop a clinically relevant research agenda. Initial CTN efforts addressed the use of buprenorphine, a mu-opioid partial agonist, as treatment for opioid dependence. Strong evidence of buprenorphine's therapeutic efficacy was demonstrated in clinical trials involving several thousand opioid-dependent participants, and in 2002, the Food and Drug Administration approved buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid dependence. With the advent of a sublingual tablet containing both buprenorphine and naloxone to mitigate abuse and diversion (Suboxone), buprenorphine appeared poised to be the first-line treatment for opioid addiction. Notwithstanding its many attributes, certain implementation barriers remained to be addressed in CTN studies, and these efforts have brought a body of knowledge on buprenorphine to frontline clinicians. The purpose of this article is to review CTN-based buprenorphine research and related efforts to overcome challenges to the implementation of buprenorphine therapy in mainstream practice. Furthermore, this article explores current issues and future challenges that may require additional CTN efforts.
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