A study conducted by researchers from University of Kentucky College of Public Health, Lexington reports that states which elected to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act saw a significant increase in the prescribing of buprenorphine. Study author Hefei Wen, PhD, stated, "Our findings suggest that Medicaid expansion has the potential to reduce the financial barriers to buprenorphine utilization and improve access to medication-assisted treatment of opioid use disorder." The study additionally pointed to the need for more clinicians who are approved to prescribe buprenorphine. The findings are published in the April issue of Medical Care.
Buprenorphine is the most commonly prescribed medication to treat opioid use disorder, but its use has been significantly impeded by a lack of health insurance coverage, and by limitations on the population of physicians who can prescribe it and the number of patients that each can treat. The study compared prescribing trends in the 26 states and the District of Columbia in which Medicaid expansion was adopted to the balance of states in which it was not. Medicaid expansion was correlated to a 70% increase in buprenorphine prescribing, with a 50% increase in Medicaid spending on buprenorphine. The study also found that a 10% increase in the number of approved prescribers translated to a 45% increase in buprenorphine prescriptions. In related commentary PAINWeek faculty member Jeffrey Fudin, BS, PharmD, FCCP, noted that buprenorphine offers advantages as a first-line option for patients who are indicated for opioid therapy, but are at risk for adverse effects.
Read a news story about the findings here.
The journal abstract may be read here.
Posted on March 22, 2017