Jana Burson is a North Carolina physician who specializes in the treatment of opioid addiction using medications like buprenorphine and methadone. Dr. Burson is a passionate caregiver and patient advocate with considerable experience in the field of addiction treatment. She maintains an informative blog on the topic of opioid addiction treatment and recently posted her comments and observations on a revealing 2012 study.
The 2012 study by Saxon et al is reported in her blog to have followed more than 700 patients over 24 weeks who were receiving either methadone or buprenorphine (the active ingredient in Suboxone). These patients were checked for specific red flag elevations that would suggest emerging liver damage or liver inflammation. None of the patients receiving methadone or buprenorphine had significant abberations in liver functioning. This led the researchers to conclude that neither medication causes liver damage.
A 2014 follow-up study by Soyka and others (published in the American Journal on Addictions) found the same results in their research of 181 patients on Suboxone (buprenorphine + naloxone).
Studies like these help to dispel misinformation around opioid treatment medications and their safety. Dr. Burson expressed that it was once routine to order liver function tests for patients on buprenorphine therapy, but that this is likely unnecessary given the more recent research validating methadone and buprenorphine’s safety in regard to liver functioning.
There are addiction-related illnesses, like Hepatitis C, that can have highly detrimental effects on the liver. According to Dr. Burson, the Soyka study also showed that buprenorphine was not harmful even in patients diagnosed with Hepatitis C.
Thorough research studies like these are important in further legitimizing the benefits & established safety profile of opioid treatment medications. Having access to safe medications helps hundreds of thousands of people find effective treatment for chronic opioid addiction.