Cover: Discontinuation of Buprenorphine Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder During the Coronavirus Disease-2019 Pandemic

Discontinuation of Buprenorphine Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder During the Coronavirus Disease-2019 Pandemic

A Multilevel Framework

Published in: Medical Care (2022). doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000001802

Posted on Dec 8, 2022

by Brendan Saloner, Hsien-Yen Chang, G. Caleb Alexander, Bradley D. Stein


The coronavirus disease-2019 pandemic has been associated with large increases in opioid-related mortality, yet it is unclear whether specific subpopulations were especially likely to discontinue buprenorphine treatment for opioid use disorder as the pandemic ensued.


The aim was to assess predictors of buprenorphine discontinuation in the early months of the coronavirus disease-2019 pandemic (April–July 2020) compared with a prepandemic period (April–July 2019).


In each time period, we estimated a multilevel regression models to assess risk of discontinuation in April–July for people who started buprenorphine in January–February. Models included person-level, prescriber-level, and area-level covariates.


Individuals age 18 years or older in the all-payer IQVIA Longitudinal Prescription Claims.


The primary outcome was buprenorphine discontinuation (ie, no filled prescriptions during the follow-up periods).


Overall, 13.98% of patients discontinued buprenorphine in April–July 2020, less than the 15.71% in 2019 (P<0.001). In 2020, patient-level factors associated with discontinuation included younger age, male sex, shorter baseline possession ratio, and payment by cash. Compared with patients with a primary care physician prescriber, specialties most associated with discontinuation were pain medicine and physician assistant/nurse practitioner. Compared with the South Atlantic region, discontinuation risk was lowest in New England and highest in the West South Central States. The association between patient, prescriber, and geographic variables to risk of discontinuation was very similar in 2019 and 2020.


While clinical and policy interventions may have mitigated opioid use disorder treatment discontinuation following the pandemic, such discontinuation is nevertheless common and varies by identifiable patient, provider and geographic factors.

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