Subsequent Buprenorphine Treatment Following Emergency Physician Buprenorphine Prescription Fills

A National Assessment 2019 to 2020

Published in: doi: Annals of Emergency Medicine (2022). 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2022.01.042

Posted on on March 23, 2022

by Bradley D. Stein, Brendan Saloner, Rose Kerber, Mark J. Sorbero, Adam J. Gordon

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Study Objective

Buprenorphine treatment for opioid use disorder provided in the emergency department with subsequent buprenorphine treatment by community prescribers is associated with improved outcomes, but the frequency with which this occurs is unknown. We examined the rates of subsequent buprenorphine treatment for buprenorphine-naïve individuals filling buprenorphine prescriptions from emergency physicians and initiated buprenorphine treatment and how such rates varied before and during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.


Using pharmacy claims capturing an estimated 92% of prescriptions filled at US retail pharmacies, we identified buprenorphine prescriptions filled between February 1, 2019, and November 30, 2020, written by emergency physicians. In this observational study, we calculated the rate at which patients subsequently filled buprenorphine prescriptions from other nonemergency clinicians, the frequency with which subsequent filled prescriptions were from different types of prescribers, and the changes in the rates of subsequent prescriptions following the declaration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.


We identified 22,846 prescriptions written by emergency physicians and filled by buprenorphine-naïve patients. They were most commonly paid for by Medicaid and were in metropolitan counties; 28.5% of patients subsequently filled buprenorphine prescriptions written by other clinicians. Adult primary care physicians and advanced practice providers (eg, physician assistants and nurse practitioners) were responsible for most of the subsequent prescriptions. The rates of subsequent prescriptions were 3.5% lower after the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration.


The majority of patients filling buprenorphine prescriptions written by emergency physicians do not subsequently fill prescriptions written by other clinicians, and the rates of subsequent prescriptions were lower after the declaration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. These findings highlight the need for a system of care that improves buprenorphine treatment continuity of care for patients with opioid use disorder from emergency settings to community treatment providers.

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