A 2019 evaluation of opioid use disorder treatment resources in rural Utah counties

J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). 2021 Sep-Oct;61(5):513-521. doi: 10.1016/j.japh.2021.03.019. Epub 2021 Mar 31.


Objectives: The opioid crisis significantly affects residents of rural communities who already experience poor health outcomes based on social determinants. Therefore, this project evaluated the reported availability and accessibility of opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment resources in rural Utah county pharmacies through a multistep process intended to estimate the distance (miles) to registered (waivered) OUD care providers and community pharmacies and, thus, the ability to fill prescriptions for OUD treatment medications.

Methods: First, the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service dichotomous classification scheme was used to identify nonmetropolitan counties. Second, online resources were used to identify the volume of waivered treatment providers and community pharmacies by county. Third, the driving distances to both resources were estimated according to ZIP Code and county. Finally, the immediate availability of filling a prescription for OUD treatment medications was determined by surveying community pharmacists in rural Utah counties.

Results: Nineteen of the 29 Utah counties were identified as rural and included in the study. Pharmacists in 50 of the 75 viable pharmacies completed surveys (66.7% usable response rate). OUD treatment medications were immediately available for dispensing in 90% (45 of 50) of the responding pharmacies. Two of the 19 counties (10.5%) lacked a pharmacy, and 6 of the 19 counties (31.6%) lacked a registered OUD treatment provider. Driving distances ranged from 1 mile to 71 miles to the nearest pharmacy and from 1 mile to 96 miles to the nearest waivered treatment provider.

Conclusion: OUD treatment medications were readily available in some but not all rural Utah pharmacies. However, geographic barriers may prevent reasonable access to treatment providers and pharmacies for residents of smaller, remote communities.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Opioid-Related Disorders*
  • Pharmaceutical Services*
  • Pharmacies*
  • Rural Population
  • United States
  • Utah