A study published last month, supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), found an effective way to treat opioid use disorder (OUD). The approach prioritizes collaboration between physicians and pharmacists in administering and monitoring Buprenorphine, a medication used to treat OUD.
Doctors and Pharmacists Worked Together
Participants did an initial screening with a Buprenorphine-waivered physician, where the dose was gradually increased to find the right amount for the person. For the next six months, participants had monthly visits with a community pharmacist.
The pharmacist not only dispensed medication to the participant, but provided comprehensive care. They assessed how well treatment was working, provided counseling, and referred the participant to specialists as needed. When appropriate, the pharmacist gave feedback to the physician about adjusting medication dosage.
The results were promising. At the end of the six months, less than 5% of people who completed all urine screenings tested positive for opioids. Throughout the whole study, there were no opioid-related emergencies or hospitalizations. Over 90% of patients agreed that they were very satisfied with the treatment, that transfer of care from physician’s office to pharmacy was not difficult at all, and that “holding buprenorphine visits at the same place the medication is dispensed was very or extremely useful/convenient.”
Buprenorphine Treatment Can Be Inaccessible to Many
Many people face barriers to accessing a buprenorphine-waivered physician. Getting to the nearest one can require significant travel, which is not feasible for a lot of people.
According to NIDA, “In the United States, fewer than 10% of primary care providers are authorized to prescribe buprenorphine, and more than 20 million people in the United States live in a county without a buprenorphine-waivered physician.” Meanwhile, about 90% of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy.
The researchers noted that more studies are necessary to be able to “respond to the needs of diverse clinical settings and populations.” But they concluded that a collaboration between physicians and pharmacists can make OUD treatment more widely accessible.
If you are struggling with an opioid use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. Amatus Recovery Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. We provide medication-assisted treatment (Suboxone and Vivitrol) to help gradually free you from substances. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.