Cover: Prior Authorization Restrictions on Medications for Opioid Use Disorder

Prior Authorization Restrictions on Medications for Opioid Use Disorder

Trends in State Laws from 2005 to 2019

Published in: Annals of Medicine, Volume 55, Issue 1, pages 514–520 (2023). doi: 10.1080/07853890.2023.2171107

Posted on Feb 9, 2023

by Barbara Andraka-Christou, Olivia Golan, Rachel Totaram, Maggie Ohama, Brendan Saloner, Adam J. Gordon, Bradley D. Stein

Research objective

Medications for opioid use disorder (MOUDs)—including methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone—are the most effective treatments for opioid use disorder (OUD). Historically, insurers have required prior authorization for MOUD, but prior authorization is often reported as a key barrier to MOUD prescribing. Some states have passed laws prohibiting MOUD prior authorization requirements. We sought to identify the frequency of MOUD prior authorization prohibitions in state laws and to categorize types of prohibitions.


We searched for regulations and statutes present in all U.S. states and Washington DC between 2005 and 2019 using MOUD-related terms in Westlaw legal software. In qualitative software, we coded laws discussing MOUD prior authorization using template analysis—a mixed deductive/inductive approach. Finally, we used coded laws to identify frequencies of states with prior authorization prohibitions, including changes over time.


No states had laws prohibiting MOUD prior authorization between 2005 and 2015, with the first prohibition appearing in 2016. By 2019, fifteen states had MOUD prior authorization prohibitions. States varied significantly in their approach to prohibiting MOUD prior authorization. In 2019, it was more common for states to have MOUD prior authorization prohibitions applying to all insurers (n = 10 states) than to only Medicaid (n = 7 states) or only non-Medicaid insurers (n = 1 state). In 2019, general prior authorization prohibitions (n = 10 states) were more common than prohibitions only applicable to medications on the formulary, prohibitions only applicable to medications on the preferred drug list, prohibitions only applicable during the first 5 days of treatment, and prohibitions only applicable during the first 30 days of treatment.


The number of states with an MOUD prior authorization law prohibition increased in recent years. Such laws could help expand access to life-saving OUD treatments by making it easier for clinicians to prescribe MOUD.

Research conducted by

This report is part of the RAND external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.