Pharmacists offer accessible treatment for patients with opioid use disorder, says study
Findings from a new study published in NEJM suggest that pharmacists can safely and effectively start patients with opioid use disorder on buprenorphine.
The study involved 100 patients who started taking buprenorphine after visiting a specially trained pharmacist. Once stabilized on buprenorphine, 58 patients were randomly assigned to receive either continued care in the pharmacy or standard care at a clinic or physician’s office.
After 1 month, the patients in the pharmacy care group showed higher rates of retention: 25 patients (89%) continued to receive treatment in the pharmacy compared with 5 patients (17%) in the standard care group.
“To have so many people in the pharmacy group continue on with their care was completely unexpected,” said Traci C. Green, PhD, lead author and codirector of Rhode Island Hospital’s Center of Biomedical Research Excellence on Opioids and Overdose, in a press statement. “The results from this pilot study show how pharmacies can be an effective and viable pathway to treatment for opioid use disorder.”
A third of patients in the study reported being Black, Indigenous, or persons of color, and almost one-half were without a permanent residence.
In the same press release, study author Josiah D. Rich, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Brown University, said that “[c]onsidering overdose deaths are increasing the fastest among Black and Hispanic communities and over 1,500 Rhode Islanders are currently unhoused, pharmacy-based addiction care models could be a pathway to promote racial and economic equity in accessing addiction treatment.”