Patient, Prescriber, and Community Factors Associated with Filled Naloxone Prescriptions Among Patients Receiving Buprenorphine 2017–18

Published in: Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Volume 221 (April 2021). doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2021.108569

Posted on on February 19, 2021

by Bradley D. Stein, Christopher M. Jones, Rosanna Smart, Yaou Flora Sheng, Mark J. Sorbero

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Prescribing naloxone to patients at increased opioid overdose risk is a key component of opioid overdose prevention efforts, but little is known about naloxone fills among patients receiving buprenorphine for opioid use disorder, one such high risk group.


This retrospective cross-sectional study used de-identified pharmacy claims representing 90% of all prescriptions filled at retail pharmacies in 50 states and the District of Columbia. We performed a multivariable logistic regression to examine filled naloxone prescriptions among patients receiving buprenorphine treatment and assessed how filled naloxone prescriptions vary by patient, prescriber, and community characteristics.


Filled naloxone prescriptions occurred among 4.5% of buprenorphine treatment episodes. Episodes paid through Medicaid (aOR 2.40, 95%CI 2.33–2.47) and Medicare (aOR 1.53, 95%CI 1.46–1.60) had higher odds of filled naloxone prescriptions than commercial insurance episodes. Compared to episodes where the primary prescriber was an adult primary care physician, odds of filling a naloxone prescription were higher among episodes prescribed by addiction specialists (aOR 1.30, 95% CI 1.24–1.37) and physician assistants/nurse practitioners (aOR 1.57, 95% CI 1.53–1.61).


Prescribing naloxone to patients receiving buprenorphine represents a tangible clinical action that can be taken to help prevent opioid overdose deaths. However, despite recommendations to co-prescribe naloxone to patients at increased risk for opioid overdose, rates of filling naloxone prescriptions remain low among patients dispensed buprenorphine. States, insurers, and health systems should consider implementing strategies to facilitate increased co-prescribing of naloxone to at-risk individuals.

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