JAMA - American Medical Association
Sarah E. Wakeman, MD1,2; Marc R. Larochelle, MD, MPH3,4; Omid Ameli, MD, MPH5; et al
The increasing burden of opioid use disorder (OUD) has resulted in increased opioid-related morbidity and mortality, with 47 600 overdose deaths in 2017 alone.1-3 From 2002 to 2012, hospitalization costs attributable to opioid-related overdose increased by more than $700 million annually.4 Associated health complications, such as hepatitis C infection, HIV infection, and serious injection-related infections, are also increasing.5-7 In addition, as rates of opioid-related death have increased despite decreases in prescription opioid supply, there is an increasing recognition that greater attention must be paid to improving access to effective OUD treatment.8,9
Medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) is effective and improves mortality, treatment retention, and remission, but most people with OUD remain untreated.10-15 Many parts of the United States lack access to buprenorphine prescribers, and only a few addiction treatment programs offer all forms of MOUD. 16-18 This lack of access has resulted in a treatment gap of an estimated 1 million people with OUD untreated with MOUD annually.19
Nationally representative, comparative effectiveness studies of MOUD compared with nonpharmacologic treatment are limited. One prior study 12 compared MOUD with psychosocial treatments but was limited to a Massachusetts Medicaid population. Studies 20-23 examining OUD treatment among nationally representative populations have examined trends in MOUD initiation, patterns of OUD treatment, and effectiveness of different types of MOUD at reducing overdose using Medicaid and commercial claims data. However, none of those studies 20-23 compared the effectiveness of MOUD with nonpharmacologic treatments in a national sample. Despite better access to medical care, only a few commercially insured patients are treated with MOUD, and psychosocial-only treatments continue to be common, suggesting that greater understanding of the comparative effectiveness of these different treatments is needed.21
In this study, we used a large, nationally representative database of commercially insured and Medicare Advantage (MA) individuals to evaluate the effectiveness of MOUD compared with nonpharmacologic treatment. This retrospective comparative effectiveness study was designed to inform treatment decisions made by policy makers, insurers, practitioners, and patients.