Why aren't physicians prescribing more buprenorphine?

J Subst Abuse Treat. 2017 Jul;78:1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2017.04.005. Epub 2017 Apr 12.


Background & objective: Buprenorphine is an underutilized pharmacotherapy that can play a key role in combating the opioid epidemic. Individuals with opioid use disorder (OUD) often struggle to find physicians that prescribe buprenorphine. Many physicians do not have the waiver to prescribe buprenorphine, and a large proportion of physicians that are waivered do not prescribe to capacity. This study aimed to quantitatively understand why physicians do not utilize buprenorphine for the treatment of OUD more frequently.

Methods: Physicians (n=558) with and without the waiver to prescribe buprenorphine were surveyed about perceived drawbacks associated with prescribing buprenorphine. Furthermore, resources were identified that would encourage those without the waiver to obtain it, and those with the waiver to accept more new patients. The survey was distributed online to physicians in the spring/summer of 2016 via the American Society for Addiction Medicine and American Medical Association listservs.

Results and conclusions: A logistic regression analysis was used to identify reasons that respondents indicated no willingness to increase prescribing (χ2(4)=73.18, p<0.001); main reasons were lack of belief in agonist treatment (OR 3.98, 95% CI, 1.43 to 11.1, p=0.008), lack of time for additional patients (OR 5.54, 95% CI, 3.5 to 8.7, p<0.001), and belief that reimbursement rates are insufficient (OR 2.50, 95% CI, 1.3 to 4.8, p=0.006). Differences between non-waivered and waivered physicians concerning attitudes toward buprenorphine treatment as well as resources that would increase willingness to prescribe are also discussed. Identifying barriers to buprenorphine utilization is crucial in expanding treatment options for individuals with OUD.

Keywords: Buprenorphine; Opioid maintenance treatment; Opioid use disorder; Physician.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage*
  • Buprenorphine / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Buprenorphine