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Papers of the Week

Papers: 23 Sep 2023 - 29 Sep 2023

Clinical, Psychology

Human Studies, Neurobiology, Pharmacology/Drug Development

Inflammation/Inflammatory, Psychological/Comorbidities

2023 Sep 22

J Pain


“Buprenorphine, It Works so Differently”: Adults with Sickle Cell Disease Describe Transitioning to Buprenorphine for Treatment of Chronic Pain.


Prince E, Loeser P, Early M, Carroll CP, Lanzkron S, Pecker LH


A growing body of literature describes the use of buprenorphine for the treatment of chronic pain in people with sickle cell disease. The experiences of people with sickle cell disease who have tried buprenorphine are not yet reported. This qualitative descriptive study was conducted to explore perspectives on buprenorphine for chronic pain in sickle cell disease. We interviewed 13 participants with sickle cell disease who had been prescribed buprenorphine and had a clinic visit between December 1, 2020 and April, 2022 in our Sickle Cell Center for Adults. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using thematic analysis. Eleven out of 13 participants were taking buprenorphine at the time of the interview, with mean treatment duration of 33 months (SD 18, range 7 to 78 months). Five major themes were identified: 1) dissatisfaction with full agonist opioids; 2) navigating uncertainty with autonomy in deciding to try buprenorphine; 3) functional and relational changes after starting buprenorphine, 4) enduring systemic barriers to pain treatment, and 5) trusting treatment relationships are necessary when approaching patients about buprenorphine. The experience of adulthood living with sickle cell disease before and after starting buprenorphine is qualitatively different with significant improvements in social functioning. PERSPECTIVE: This study examined the experience of adults with sickle cell disease and chronic pain transitioning from full agonist opioids to buprenorphine. It is the first qualitative study of buprenorphine in people with sickle cell disease, contributing to a small but growing literature about buprenorphine and sickle cell disease.