A new study has shown buprenorphine to be superior to methadone in weaning newborns from opioids their mothers have taken. The study, conducted by researchers at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, is the first of its kind to test the efficacy of buprenorphine over the standard methadone.

The study sample included 201 infants whose mother’s were dependent on opioids. Thirty-eight of the infants received a five-step buprenorphine protocol, while 163 received a standard eight-step methadone protocol. Results showed that the 38 infants who received buprenorphine had an average treatment course of 9.4 days, compared to 14 days for those on the standard methadone course. The length of hospital stay was also shorter for those in the buprenorphine group, with their average stay 16.3 days, compared to 20.7 days for the methadone group.

RELATED: Hospital Readmissions Up in Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

Instances of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) — where babies are born with withdrawal symptoms — have increased in the US in the last decade and contribute to a greater burden on public healthcare and families. Recent research in The New England Journal of Medicine indicated that newborns admitted to care units for NAS have risen from 7 cases per 1000 to 27 per 1000 from 2004 through 2013.

“These findings suggest that outcomes for NAS may be further optimized by developing individualized treatments centered on the type of opioid pregnant women are exposed to,” said Eric Hall, PhD, who was the lead author of the study.

For more information visit Cincinnatichildrens.org.