QT-interval effects of methadone, levomethadyl, and buprenorphine in a randomized trial

Erich F. Wedam, George E. Bigelow, Rolley E. Johnson, Paul A. Nuzzo, Mark C.P. Haigney*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

228 Scopus citations


Background: Levomethadyl acetate, methadone hydrochloride, and buprenorphine hydrochloride are equally effective treatments for opioid dependence. Each blocks the human ether-a-go-go-related gene (hERG)-associated channel in vitro and represents a risk for QT prolongation.To compare the effects of 3 known hERG-associated channel blockers on the corrected QT (QTc), we conducted a randomized, controlled trial of opioid-addicted subjects. Methods: We analyzed 12-lead electrocardiograms collected at baseline and every 4 weeks from 165 opioid-addicted participants in a 17-week randomized double-blind clinical trial of equally effective doses of levomethadyl, methadone, and buprenorphine at a major referral center. Analyses were limited to the 154 patients with a normal baseline QTc=(QT/√ R-R) who had at least 1 subsequent in-treatment electrocardiogram. Patients were randomized to receive treatment with levomethadyl, methadone, or buprenorphine (hereinafter, levomethadyl, methadone, and buprenorphine groups, respectively). The prespecified end points were a QTc greater than 470 milliseconds in men (or >490 milliseconds in women), or an increase from baseline in QTc greater than 60 milliseconds. Results: Baseline QTc was similar in the 3 groups. The levomethadyl and methadone groups were significantly more likely to manifest a QTc greater than 470 or 490 milliseconds (28% for the levomethadyl group vs 23% for the methadone group vs 0% for the buprenorphine group; P<.001) or an increase from baseline in QTc greater than 60 milliseconds (21% of the levomethadyl group [odds ratio, 15.8; 95% confidence interval, 3.7-67.1] and 12% of the methadone group [odds ratio, 8.4; 95% confidence interval, 1.9-36.4]) compared with the buprenorphine group (2% of subjects; P<.001). In subjects whose dosage of levomethadyl or methadone remained fixed over at least 8 weeks, the QTc continued to increase progressively over time (P=.08 for the levomethadyl group, P=.01 for the methadone group). Conclusion: Buprenorphine is associated with less QTc prolongation than levomethadyl or methadone and may be a safe alternative.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2469-2475
Number of pages7
JournalArchives of Internal Medicine
Issue number22
StatePublished - 10 Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes


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