Cover: Prescribing Patterns of Buprenorphine Waivered Physicians

Prescribing Patterns of Buprenorphine Waivered Physicians

Published in: Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Volume 181, Supplement C (December 2017), Pages 213-218. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.10.002

Posted on Nov 7, 2017

by Cindy Parks Thomas, Erin Doyle, Peter W. Kreiner, Christopher M. Jones, Joel Dubenitz, Alexis Horan, Bradley D. Stein

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DATA 2000 enabled physicians with approved training to be waivered to prescribe buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid use disorders (OUD) for a limited number of patients. A rule change in 2016 increased the patient limit for certain buprenorphine waivered physicians from 100 to 275. This study examines the prescribing patterns of buprenorphine prescribers by waiver limit status (30- or 100-patient limit).


Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) data from Ohio, California, and Maine were used to identify prescriptions for buprenorphine for OUD from January 2010 to April 2015. Analysis of prescribing patterns by prescriber waiver status included monthly patient censuses and treatment episode duration by state, year, and the frequency with which prescribers were near their respective patient limits.


In the three states, 8638 physicians initiated 468,148 buprenorphine episodes. The adjusted mean monthly patient census was 42.9 for 100-patient waivered prescribers, 13.6 patients for 30-patient waivered prescribers, and 7.6 patients for prescribers unassociated with a waiver. Half (48.5%) of episodes were associated with 100-patient waivered prescribers, 26.9% with 30-patient waivered prescribers, and 24.4% with non-waivered prescribers. 30-patient waivered physicians were more likely to have no buprenorphine treatment episodes in a given month than 100-patient waivered prescribers.


Most buprenorphine prescribers practice well under their current patient limit and have numerous months with no patient episodes. For the few high prescribers, increasing the maximum patient limit beyond 100 has the potential to improve access but alone may not have widespread impact unless integrated into complementary approaches toward increasing prescriber capacity.

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