Cover: Growing Importance of High-Volume Buprenorphine Prescribers in OUD Treatment

Growing Importance of High-Volume Buprenorphine Prescribers in OUD Treatment

2009–2018

Published in: Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Volume 259 (June 2024), 111290. DOI: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2024.111290

Posted on rand.org May 20, 2024

by Megan S. Schuler, Andrew W. Dick, Adam J. Gordon, Brendan Saloner, Rose Kerber, Bradley D. Stein

Background

We examined the number and characteristics of high-volume buprenorphine prescribers and the nature of their buprenorphine prescribing from 2009 to 2018.

Methods

In this observational cohort study, IQVIA Real World retail pharmacy claims data were used to characterize trends in high-volume buprenorphine prescribers (clinicians with a mean of 30 or more active patients in every month that they were an active prescriber) during 2009–2018. Very high-volume prescribing (mean of 100+ patients per month) was also examined.

Results

Overall, 94,491 clinicians prescribed buprenorphine dispensed during 2009–2018. The proportion of active prescribers meeting high-volume criteria increased from 7.4% in 2009 to 16.7% in 2018. High-volume prescribers accounted for 80% of dispensed buprenorphine prescriptions during 2009–2018; very high-volume prescribers accounted for 26%. Adult primary care physicians consistently comprised the majority of high-volume prescribers. Addiction specialists were much more likely to be high-volume prescribers compared to other specialties, including psychiatrists and pain specialists. By 2018, the proportion of prescriptions from high-volume prescribers paid by Medicaid had doubled to 40%, accompanied by a decline in both self-pay and commercial insurance. High-volume prescribers were overwhelmingly concentrated in urban counties with the highest fatal overdose rates. In 2018, the highest density of high-volume prescribers was in New England and the mid-Atlantic region.

Conclusions

Growth in high-volume prescribers outpaced the overall growth in buprenorphine prescribers across 2009–2018. High-volume prescribers play an increasingly central role in providing medication for OUD in the U.S., yet results indicate key regional variation in the availability of high-volume buprenorphine prescribers.

Research conducted by

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