Research Says Black Patients Are Less Likely to Get Treatment for Opioid-Use Disorder

Every day, 130 people in the U.S. die from an opioid-related overdose. Despite the urgency of the situation, barriers to treatment—including stigma, insurance and cost—remain for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for patients with opioid-use disorder (OUD).

The Food and Drug Administration has approved methadone, buprenorphine, naltrexone and buprenorphine-naloxone combination products for MAT—but that doesn’t mean that everyone has equal access to them.

The barriers have also served to heighten racial inequities in access to treatment, according to a JAMA Psychiatry research letter written by researchers at the University of Michigan (UM) and the VA (Veterans Affairs) Ann Arbor Healthcare System, who found that buprenorphine treatment “is concentrated among white persons and those with private insurance or use self-pay.”

They calculated that there were 13.4 million patient visits resulting in a buprenorphine prescription between 2012 and 2015, with white patients accounting for 12.7 million of those visits and minority patients accounting for only 363,000.

So, even though OUD rates are similar for the two groups (3.5% for blacks, 4.7% for whites), 35 white patients received a buprenorphine prescription for every patient of another race or ethnicity who received one. Compared with white patients, black patients had 77% lower odds of having an office visit that included a buprenorphine prescription.

“We shouldn’t see differences this large,” lead author Pooja Lagisetty, MD, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the UM School of Medicine, said in a news release. “As the number of Americans with opioid-use disorder grows, we need to increase access to treatment for black and low-income populations and be thoughtful about how we reach all those who could benefit from this treatment.”

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Source: American Medical Association