What is Belbuca (Buprenorphine Buccal Film)? How do Belbuca Strips Work?

May 18, 2022

Table of Contents

Belbuca is the brand name for buprenorphine-monotherapy buccal film.[1] Buprenorphine is one of the three FDA-approved medications used to treat opioid use disorder, or OUD.[2]

The term buccal film refers to the route of administration. Buprenorphine can be taken several different ways, including as a buccal film, sublingual film, sublingual tablet, injection, or implant.

Belbuca strips are taken buccally, or in the side of the mouth. The films are placed on the inside of your mouth on the inner wall of your cheek. They are designed to dissolve directly into the cheek.

When administered through buccal film, buprenorphine-monotherapy (Belbuca) is effective for approximately 24 hours.

Some Medications for Addiction Treatment (MAT), like Suboxone or Zubsolv, combine buprenorphine and naloxone.[3,4] In contrast, Belbuca is a buprenorphine-monotherapy, which means it does not combine ingredients. Belbuca is strictly composed of buprenorphine. 

What Is It Used For?

Belbuca is a medication that can be used temporarily or as a long-term treatment for patients with OUD. It is a proven effective treatment for OUD that can help to reduce cravings, mitigate withdrawal symptoms, minimize the chance for relapse, and prevent overdose deaths when taken as medically directed.

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. A partial opioid agonist helps to reduce opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms in individuals with OUD. It does this by interacting with the same opioid receptors that are activated by full opioid agonists like oxycodone, heroin, fentanyl, and methadone. 

Unlike a full agonist, buprenorphine does not fully activate the opioid receptors. Buprenorphine has a “ceiling effect” because it only partially activates opioid receptors.[5] It is therefore much harder to get “high” or experience euphoric effects with buprenorphine when taken as medically directed. It is also much harder to achieve a level of sedation that puts the individual at risk for respiratory suppression or overdose, making Suboxone a lot safer than other full opioid agonists. 

Belbuca is an evidence-based safe and effective medication for opioid use disorder.

Potential Side Effects

As with any medication, Belbuca may have side effects, particularly if taken with other sedative drugs or alcohol. Avoid taking Belbuca with other central nervous system (CNS) depressants, such as benzodiazepines, as this can cause breathing problems and sedation.

It is important to take Belbuca as medically directed. Be sure to administer it properly, take the right dosage, and take it on time as prescribed. Most of the potential side effects from Belbuca occur if the medication is not taken properly as medically directed.

Most common side effects are mild. They may include the following:

  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness

Again, when taken as medically directed, Belbuca is a safe and effective medication for the long-term treatment of opioid use disorder.

Where Can You Get Belbuca?

Belbuca is a prescription medication that can be prescribed to you by a treatment provider as part of an OUD treatment plan. The Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 (DATA 2000) allows buprenorphine medications, including Belbuca, to be prescribed outside of an opioid treatment program.[6]

Belbuca can be prescribed by a qualified physician and picked up from your local pharmacy. Often, Belbuca can be prescribed via telemedicine addiction treatment.


Belbuca is a prescription medication that can be eligible for insurance coverage depending on your plan, carrier, and policy. Belbuca can be subject to a copay or deductible amount.

Typically, Belbuca can cost around $400 out of pocket for a 60-day supply. This can be drastically reduced if you have insurance coverage or a pharmacy discount plan.

Belbuca also offers a Belbuca Copay card that can provide you with deep savings and copay assistance.[7] Savings are based on eligibility; however, you may be able to get Belbuca for as low as $0 a month after activating your Belbuca Copay card.

Talk to your provider about Belbuca and the potential payment options for this lifesaving OUD treatment medication.

Bicycle Health provides Suboxone therapy for opioid use disorder. Bicycle offers educational resources on Belbuca, Subutex and Sublocade, but does not currently offer those therapies.

Elena Hill, MD, MPH

Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where she works as a primary care physician as well as part time in pain management and integrated health. Her clinical interests include underserved health care, chronic pain and integrated/alternative health.

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  1. Belbuca. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/appletter/2019/207932Orig1s012ltr.pdf. 2019. Accessed January 2022.
  2. MAT Medications, Counseling, and Related Conditions. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions#medications-used-in-mat. November 2021. Accessed January 2022.
  3. Buprenorphine. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/buprenorphine. May 2021. Accessed January 2022.
  4. Naloxone. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/naloxone. July 2021. Accessed January 2022.
  5. Clinical Pharmacology of Buprenorphine: Ceiling Effects at High Doses. Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8181201/. May 1994. Accessed January 2022.
  6. Statutes, Regulations, and Guidelines. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/statutes-regulations-guidelines#DATA-2000. December 2021. Accessed January 2022.
  7. Belbuca Savings and Copay Assistance. BioDelivery Sciences. https://www.belbuca.com/savings. 2022. Accessed January 2022.

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