Study finds OUD med underprescribed, especially by race
Findings from a study published in NEJM suggest that a key treatment for opioid use disorder is underprescribed among patients in the United States, in particular among Black patients.
Roughly more than 20% of patients diagnosed with OUD filled prescriptions for buprenorphine—the gold standard for OUD treatment—from 2016 to 2019, according to the study.
Researchers also found that within 6 months following a high-risk event such as an overdose, white patients filled buprenorphine prescriptions up to 80% more frequently compared with Black patients and up to 25% more frequently compared with Hispanic patients.
In the study, researchers from public health programs at Harvard and Dartmouth evaluated claims filed through Medicare’s disability program for prescriptions of buprenorphine and other addiction treatment drugs. In the 6 months after an episode in which a health care provider had diagnosed the patient with OUD, there were claims for 23,370 patients nationwide. The data show that while 18.7% of Latino patients and 23.3% of white patients, just 12.7% of Black patients received any buprenorphine during that 6-month time frame.
Lead study author Michael L. Barnett, MD, who teaches health policy and management at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, pointed out that access to medical care was not the primary issue in the differences because regardless of race, patients were in contact with physicians approximately once a month.