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Pharmacy Practice


Introduction: Past trials of buprenorphine (BUP) in the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD) have displayed favorable results, although its clinical utility was limited by the risk of abuse or physical dependence. By combining BUP with samidorphan (SAM), the euphoric high is negated by an opposing mechanism, which theoretically reduces addictive-like properties while allowing the antidepressant properties to remain. As such, the objective of this article is to analyze the results of BUP/SAM premarketing clinical trials as adjunctive treatment for treatment-resistant MDD.

Methods: A comprehensive PubMed/MEDLINE search was conducted through November 9, 2017, using the following search terms: depression, samidorphan, buprenorphine, ALKS-5461. Additional data were obtained from and resources included in the present study. All English-language clinical trials evaluating the combination of BUP/SAM in the treatment of MDD were included.

Results: A few premarketing studies have evaluated the efficacy and safety of BUP/SAM combination as adjunctive treatment in patients with treatment-resistant MDD. The FORWARD-1 through FORWARD-5 trials concluded (1) the most effective dosing ratio of BUP/SAM to reduce abuse potential was 1:1; (2) statistically significant changes in scores from baseline on the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale were noted for the 2 mg/2 mg dose compared with placebo; and (3) the most commonly reported adverse effects were nausea, dizziness, and fatigue.

Discussion: Buprenorphine/samidorphan has shown favorable results for efficacy and tolerability in premarketing studies evaluating its use as adjunctive therapy for treatment-resistant MDD. Its novel mechanism targeting the opioid pathway may serve as a promising antidepressant devoid of abuse potential.

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