Barriers and facilitators to office-based opioid agonist therapy prescribing and effective interventions to increase provider prescribing: protocol for a systematic review

Syst Rev. 2019 Jul 25;8(1):186. doi: 10.1186/s13643-019-1076-7.


Background: Opiate agonist therapy (OAT) prescribing rates by family physicians are low in the context of community-based, comprehensive primary care. Understanding the factors that support and/or inhibit OAT prescribing within primary care is needed. Our study objectives are to identify and synthesize documented barriers to, and facilitators of, primary care opioid agonist prescribing, and effective strategies to inform intervention planning and support increased primary care OAT prescribing.

Methods/design: We will systematically search EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, and gray literature in three domains: primary care providers, opioid agonist therapy, and opioid abuse. We will retain and assess primary studies reporting documented participation, or self-reported willingness to participate, in OAT prescribing; and/or at least one determinant of OAT prescribing; and/or strategies to address determinants of OAT prescribing from the perspective of primary care providers in comprehensive, community-based practice settings. There will be no restrictions on study design or publication date. Studies limited to specialty clinics with specialist prescribers, lacking extractable data, or in languages other than English or French will be excluded. Two reviewers will perform abstract review and data extraction independently. We will assess the quality of included studies using the Joanna Briggs Institute Critical Appraisal Tool. We will use a framework method of analysis to deductively code barriers and facilitators and to characterize effective strategies to support prescribing using a combined, modified a priori framework comprising the Theoretical Domains Framework and the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research.

Discussion: To date, no synthesis has been undertaken of the barriers and facilitators or effective interventions promoting OAT prescribing by primary care clinicians in community-based comprehensive care settings. Enacting change in physician behaviors, community-based programming, and health services is complex and best informed by using theoretical frameworks that allow the analysis of the available data to assist in designing and implementing interventions. In light of the current opioid crisis, increasing the capacity of primary care clinicians to provide OAT is an important strategy to curb morbidity and mortality from opioid use disorder.

Systematic review registration: PROSPERO CRD86835.

Keywords: Barrier; Buprenorphine-suboxone; Facilitator; Family physician; Methadone; Opiate addiction; Opioid agonist therapy; Opioid use disorder; Prescribing; Primary care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects*
  • Buprenorphine, Naloxone Drug Combination / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Methadone / administration & dosage
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Physicians, Family*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Systematic Reviews as Topic


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Buprenorphine, Naloxone Drug Combination
  • Methadone