Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Buprenorphine Dispensing Rates to Youth With OUD Fell From 2015 to 2020

Despite the prevalence of adolescents and young adults with opioid use disorder (OUD), the proportion of youth aged 19 years or younger who received a prescription for buprenorphine fell by 45% between 2015 and 2020, according to a report published yesterday in Pediatrics. Over the same time, the proportion of adults aged 20 years and over who were dispensed buprenorphine increased by 47%.

Andrew Terranella, M.D., M.P.H., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and colleagues noted that while just 22,000 youth aged 19 or younger received buprenorphine during the study period, an estimated 87,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 and 227,000 young adults aged 18 to 25 have OUD. “[T]hese findings suggest that many youth who could benefit from [medications for OUD] are not receiving it,” they wrote.

The researchers analyzed data from the IQVIA National Prescription Audit New to Brand and Total Patient Tracker, which contains data on prescriptions dispensed by approximately 48,900 retail pharmacies, representing 92% of all prescriptions in the United States. They specifically focused on buprenorphine-dispensing trends in youth aged 19 or under from 2015 to 2020 and compared these dispensing trends with those of adults aged 20 or older. They also examined buprenorphine dispensing by prescriber specialty (for example, family medicine, general practice, and psychiatry).

The number of prescriptions written for youth aged 19 years or younger dropped from 68,857 in 2015 to 51,685 in 2020, a decrease of 25%.

Between 2015 and 2018, psychiatrists were the second highest prescribers of buprenorphine (prescribed 14% to 18% of prescriptions annually), trailing only family medicine physicians (prescribed 18% to 22%). The largest reductions in buprenorphine prescribing rates from 2015 to 2020 were by general practice physicians or physicians with an “unspecified specialty” and psychiatrists, with 55% and 63% reductions, respectively.

“Training more clinicians in addiction medicine and adolescent psychiatry could be important in expanding access to [medication for OUD] for adolescents, particularly for individuals with complex histories and comorbid psychiatric disorders,” Terranella and colleagues wrote. “Understanding barriers contributing to low prescribing rates by clinicians who treat youth can inform public health efforts to increase availability of [medication for OUD] in pediatric primary care settings as well as to improve linkage to care following OUD diagnosis and overdose events.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Most Youth With OUD Who Need Medication Treatment Do Not Receive It.”

(Image: iStock/Cecilie_Arcurs)

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