Rise in buprenorphine prescription with Medicaid expansion, suggests study

Despite the continuous efforts by the government, opioid-involved deaths are on the rise in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately six in 10 drug overdose-related deaths involve an opioid, with 91 Americans succumbing to an opioid overdose every day.

Researchers have been involved in introducing new treatment interventions to deal with opioid-related problems. Among the various treatment options for opioid use disorder (OUD), buprenorphine has exhibited significant efficacy. However, the high cost of buprenorphine in combination with limited prescribing capacity is causing underutilization of this effective medication-assisted treatment modality. Buprenorphine, an “opioid partial agonist,” has been found to be efficacious in reducing opioid use, facilitating abstinence and ensuring fast recovery.

Though prescribing buprenorphine may be one of the effective strategies to deal with opioid epidemic, inadequate health insurance coverage has affected the scope of buprenorphine treatment. Medicaid is a government-run health care program providing free or low-cost health coverage to the Americans, especially to low-income groups, pregnant women, elderly people, single parents and people with disabilities. A recent study explored the trends related to Medicaid-covered prescriptions for buprenorphine in 26 states to see if Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) had any effect on buprenorphine treatment.

Study highlights the need of approving more physicians to prescribe buprenorphine

The study that appeared in OvidInsights, a journal published in April 2017, found that buprenorphine prescriptions were higher in the states that expanded Medicaid coverage under the ACA, compared to states that did not expand Medicaid before or after 2014.

Hefei Wen of University of Kentucky College of Public Health, Lexington, and colleagues, gave their affirmation by explaining that Medicaid expansion had a positive effect on improving medication-assisted treatment of OUDs by removing the financial barriers and increasing access. After accommodating the relevant factors, Medicaid expansion increased the number of buprenorphine prescriptions by 70 percent. The increase was complemented with the raise in Medicaid spending on buprenorphine by 50 percent.

Buprenorphine is a drug that comes under the category of controlled substances. Therefore, strict federal laws regulate the appointment of physicians who are allowed to prescribe the drug to patients with OUD and the number of patients they are authorized to treat. The study emphasized on the need of increasing the number of physicians approved to prescribe buprenorphine. The number of authorized physicians who can prescribe buprenorphine was found to be an important determinant in expanding the access to buprenorphine to more people with OUD.

While highlighting the impact of Medicaid expansion, the researchers emphasized that a ten percent increase in the number of physicians approved to treat up to 100 patients in a given year led to an increase in the number of buprenorphine prescriptions and buprenorphine spending by 45 percent and 31 percent respectively. The areas with fewer approved prescribers reported a limited impact of Medicaid expansion on buprenorphine prescriptions. Dr. Wen and colleagues also felt the need of increasing prescribing capacity of the physicians, especially in the areas with less number of approved prescribers. This can help magnify the impact of Medicaid expansion in improving buprenorphine utilization.

Dealing with opioid use disorders

According to an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2016, buprenorphine maintenance therapy can work wonders for treating OUD. It is well absorbed in the form of a sublingual tablet with its effects lasting for 24 to more than 36 hours. Moreover, it can also help alleviate opioid withdrawal symptoms while partially blocking intoxication from other opioids.

Addiction to any form of drugs or prescription painkillers is a serious problem and requires early pharmacological interventions. Therefore, if you know anybody with drug-related disorders or prominent symptoms of drug addiction, you are advised to seek professional help. You can contact the Florida Prescription Addiction Helpline for information on prescription drug rehab centers in Florida. To know more about drug addiction rehab in Florida, chat online or call our executives at 24/7 helpline number 866-292-3211.

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