Heterogeneity of nonadherent buprenorphine patients: subgroup characteristics and outcomes

Am J Manag Care. 2017 Jun 1;23(6):e172-e179.


Objectives: To examine patient characteristics and outcomes associated with nonadherence to buprenorphine and to identify specific patterns of nonadherent behavior.

Study design: Cross-sectional, retrospective analysis of health claims data.

Methods: Aetna's administrative claims data were used to categorize incident opioid use disorder (OUD) patients based on buprenorphine medication possession ratio (MPR) into adherent (n = 172) and nonadherent (n = 305) groups. Adherent groups were then divided into 5 subgroups based on level of MPR, as well as 2 a priori-defined groups: intermittent adherent (IA) and early treatment discontinuation-no consequences (ETDNC). Groups were compared on patient characteristics and outcomes.

Results: Nonadherent members incurred significantly greater healthcare costs and were more likely to relapse (P <.05). The use of high-cost healthcare services increased as a function of decreasing MPR (P <.05). Assessment of the a priori groups revealed IA members to have outcomes similar to nonadherent patients, while ETDNC members exhibited outcomes similar to adherent members.

Conclusions: Administrative claims can be used to define subgroups of buprenorphine-medication assisted treatment (B-MAT) patients. Nonadherence was related to an increased likelihood of relapse, and there is an inverse relationship between MPR and cost. The heterogeneity observed within this sample indicates that treatment regimens effective for 1 subgroup may not be appropriate for all OUD patients. Increased understanding of B-MAT nonadherent subgroups may facilitate development of new interventions and medications specifically designed for nonadherent B-MAT patients, potentially leading to improved outcomes and reduced costs of care.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Buprenorphine / therapeutic use*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medication Adherence* / psychology
  • Medication Adherence* / statistics & numerical data
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment* / methods
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment* / psychology
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Buprenorphine