It's an increasingly accepted notion in medical circles that medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder improves the odds of recovery and saves lives.
Given this fact, one would think gaining access to this level of care would be easy.
Well, according to researchers at Oregon Health and Safety University (OHSU) and the OHSU/Oregon State University College of Pharmacy, that is not the case. And insurers are a major obstacle to access.
The drug buprenorphine is considered a very safe and effective treatment option that decreases deaths from opioids and helps break the addictive hold heroin, and other opioids often have on their victims. It helps reduce withdrawal symptoms and pain while improving brain function by acting on the same parts of the brain as prescription opioids or heroin.
When researchers from OHSU and the OHSU/Oregon State University College analyzed publicly available formulary files maintained by Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, they discovered something disturbing.
They found that the proportion of health insurance plans offering buprenorphine for medication-assisted treatment without restriction fell from 89 percent in 2007 to 35 percent in 2018.
That’s not a typo.
Sadly, they also found that access to opioids fueling the epidemic was comparatively easy: 93 percent to 100 percent of plans covered prescription opioids with no restrictions.
That’s right – with ZERO restrictions.
Is the use of buprenorphine controversial is some way?
It’s a drug approved by the FDA, endorsed by specialists in the field and even recommended by U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for the treatment of opioid use disorder.
Feels like the insurance industry needs to let go of the old stigma that medication assistance isn’t really recovery.
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