Source: Health Policy Institute of Ohio
Researchers from the University of Michigan reviewed two national surveys of physician-reported prescriptions. From 2012 to 2015, as overdose deaths surged in many states, so did the number of visits during which a doctor or nurse practitioner prescribed buprenorphine, often referred to by the brand name Suboxone. The researchers assessed 13.4 million medical encounters involving the drug but found no increase in prescriptions written for African Americans.
According to the study, white populations are almost 35 times as likely to have a buprenorphine-related visit than African Americans. And the increase in prescribing the drug to whites came at a time when opioid deaths were rising faster for African Americans.
The study found that most of the white patients either paid cash (40%) or relied on private insurance (35%) to fund their buprenorphine treatment. The fact that just 25% of the visits were paid for through Medicaid and Medicare “does highlight that many of these visits could be very costly for persons of low income,” according to the study’s authors.
Doctors and nurse practitioners can demand cash payments because there’s a shortage of clinicians who can prescribe buprenorphine, according to researchers. Only about 5% of physicians have taken the special training required to prescribe buprenorphine.
As part of its Addiction Evidence Project, the Health Policy Institute of Ohio has released “Ohio Addiction Policy Inventory and Scorecard: Prevention, Treatment and Recovery,” which examines the use of medication-assisted treatment to combat addiction in Ohio.