Perceptions and Preferences for Long-Acting Injectable and Implantable Medications in Comparison to Short-Acting Medications for Opioid Use Disorders

J Subst Abuse Treat. 2020 Apr;111:54-66. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2020.01.009. Epub 2020 Jan 21.


Aim: Treatment for opioid use disorders has recently evolved to include long-acting injectable and implantable formulations of medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD). Incorporating patient preferences into treatment for substance use disorders is associated with increased motivation and treatment satisfaction. This study sought to assess treatment preferences for long-acting injectable and implantable MOUD as compared to short-acting formulations among individuals with OUD.

Methods: We conducted qualitative, semi-structured telephone interviews with forty adults recruited from across the United States through Craigslist advertisements and flyers posted in treatment programs. Eligible participants scored a two or greater on the heroin or opioid pain reliever sections of the Tobacco, Alcohol, Prescription Medications, and Other Substances (TAPS) Tool, indicative of a past-year OUD. Interviews were transcribed, coded, and thematically analyzed.

Results: Twenty-four participants (60%) currently or previously had been prescribed MOUD. Sixteen participants (40%) expressed general opposition to MOUD, citing concerns that MOUD is purely financial gain for pharmaceutical companies and/or a "band aid" solution replacing one drug with another, rather than a path to abstinence. Some participants expressed personal preference for long-acting injectable (n = 16/40: 40%) and implantable formulations (n = 12/40: 30%) over short-acting formulations. About half of the participants were not willing to use injectables (n = 19/40: 48%) or implantables (n = 22/40: 55%), preferring short-acting formulations. Mixed evaluations of long- and short-acting MOUD focused on considerations of medication-related beliefs (privacy, concern over an embedded foreign body), the medication-related burden (convenience, provision of structure and support, medication administration, potential side effects), and medication-taking practices (potential for non-prescribed use, control over dosage, and duration of treatment).

Conclusions: Though many participants personally prefer short-acting to long-acting MOUD, some were open to including long-acting formulations in the range of options for those with OUD. Participants felt long-acting formulations may reduce medication-related burden and the risk of diversion. Conversely, participants expressed concern about invasive administration and loss of control over their treatment. Results suggest support for expanded access to a variety of formulations of MOUD. The use of shared decision making may also help patients select the formulation best aligned with their experiences, values, and treatment goals.

Keywords: buprenorphine; long-acting formulations; medication for opioid use disorders (MOUD); methadone; naltrexone; patient preference.