Documented opioid use disorder and its treatment in primary care patients across six U.S. health systems

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Journal of substance abuse treatment


BACKGROUND: The United States is in the middle of an opioid overdose epidemic, and experts are calling for improved detection of opioid use disorders (OUDs) and treatment with buprenorphine or extended release (XR) injectable naltrexone, which can be prescribed in general medical settings. To better understand the magnitude of opportunities for treatment among primary care (PC) patients, we estimated the prevalence of documented OUD and medication treatment of OUD among PC patients.

METHODS: This cross-sectional study included patients with ≥2 visits to PC clinics across 6 healthcare delivery systems who were ≥16 years of age during the study period (fiscal years 2014-2016). Diagnoses, prescriptions, and healthcare utilization were ascertained from electronic health records and insurance claims (5 systems that also offer health insurance). Documented OUDs were defined as ≥1 International Classification of Diseases code for OUDs (active or remission), and OUD treatment was defined as ≥1 prescription(s) for buprenorphine formulations indicated for OUD or naltrexone XR, during the 3-year study period. The prevalence of documented OUD and treatment (95% confidence intervals) across health systems were estimated, and characteristics of patients by treatment status were compared. Prevalence of OUD and OUD treatment were adjusted for age, gender, and race/ethnicity. Combined results were also adjusted for site.

RESULT: Among 1,403,327 eligible PC patients, 54-62% were female and mean age ranged from 46 to 51 years across health systems. The 3-year prevalence of documented OUD ranged from 0.7-1.4% across the health systems. Among patients with documented OUD, the prevalence of medication treatment (primarily buprenorphine) varied across health systems: 3%, 12%, 16%, 20%, 22%, and 36%.

CONCLUSION: The prevalence of documented OUD and OUD treatment among PC patients varied widely across health systems. The majority of PC patients with OUD did not have evidence of treatment with buprenorphine or naltrexone XR, highlighting opportunities for improved identification and treatment in medical settings. These results can inform initiatives aimed at improving treatment of OUD in PC. Future research should focus on why there is such variation and how much of the variation can be addressed by improving access to medication treatment.

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