Purpose: Buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist used to treat opioid use disorder. While several policy changes have attempted to increase buprenorphine availability, access remains well below optimal levels. This study characterized how buprenorphine utilization in the United States has changed over time and whether there are regional disparities in distribution of the medication.
Methods: The amount of buprenorphine distributed from 2007 to 2017 was obtained from the Drug Enforcement Administration's Automated Reports and Consolidated Ordering System. Data were expressed as the percent change and milligrams per person in each state. The formulations and cost for prescriptions covered by Medicaid (2008 to 2018) were also examined.
Results: Buprenorphine distributed to pharmacies increased about 7-fold (476.8 to 3179.9 kg) while the quantities distributed to hospitals grew 5-fold (18.6 to 97.6 kg) nationally from 2007 to 2017. Buprenorphine distribution per person was almost 20-fold higher in Vermont (40.4 mg/person) relative to South Dakota (2.1 mg/person). There was a strong association between the number of physicians authorized to prescribe buprenorphine and distribution per state (r = +0.94, P < .0005). The buprenorphine/naloxone sublingual film (Suboxone) was the predominant formulation (92.6% of 0.31 million Medicaid prescriptions) in 2008 but accounted for less than three-fifth (57.3% of 6.56 million prescriptions) in 2018.
Conclusions: Although buprenorphine availability has substantially increased over the last decade, distribution was very nonhomogeneous across the United States.
Keywords: addiction; medication assisted treatment; opiate; opioid use disorder; pharmacoepidemiology.
© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
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