Proportion of opioid overdose deaths involving buprenorphinemedicine used to treat opioid use disorder, Its prescriptions did not increase in the United States in the months after the COVID-19 pandemic easedAccording to a study by researchers from the US National Institute on Drug Abuse and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
These figures, published in the scientific journal ‘JAMA Network Open’, agree with a study which reported Expanded access to methadone for the treatment of opioid use disorder during the COVID-19 pandemic was not associated with an increase in methadone-related overdose deaths.
In 2021, about 107,000 people will die of overdose in the United States, and 75 percent of those deaths were opioid-related., The overall increase in overdose deaths is largely attributable to Proliferation in the pharmaceutical supply of the highly potent synthetic opioid, illegal fentanyl.
Although the benefits of medication for opioid use disorder are well known, Only 22 percent of people with this disorder receive medication, One of these drugs, buprenorphine, helps reduce opioid abuseTo reduce the risk of injection-related infectious diseases and to reduce the risk of fatal and non-fatal overdoses.
“Research has shown beyond any doubt Opioid use disorder medications are highly beneficial and can save lives, yet they are underused. Expanding more equitable access to these medications for people with substance use disorders is a critical part of our nation’s response to the overdose crisis. The findings of this study reinforce existing evidence that suggests Greater prescribing flexibility may be a safer way to work towards this goal.”, commented Nora Volkow, director of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse and lead author of the study.
During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, The United States implemented flexibility to facilitate access to buprenorphine for patients with opioid use disorder.
In this way, doctors were allowed to remotely prescribe buprenorphine to new patients without conducting an in-person exam, expanded payment for telemedicine services, and se Provide flexibility over accepted communication technologies to provide clinical care to people with substance use disorders through telehealth.
To examine the impact of these changes, the researchers evaluated overdose deaths from July 2019 to June 2021. 46 states and the District of Columbia.
The researchers found that buprenorphine was involved in a very small proportion of drug overdose deaths between July 2019 and June 2021., During this study period, 1,955 buprenorphine-involved overdose deaths were reported, accounting for 2.2 percent of the 89,111 total overdose deaths and 2.6 percent of the 74,474 opioid-involved overdose deaths.
Between April 2020 and June 2021, when buprenorphine prescribing regulations were relaxed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers found that While monthly overdose deaths from opioids increased overall, the proportion of deaths from buprenorphine did not.
In addition, the study found that 92.7 percent of buprenorphine-related overdose deaths involved at least one other drug.Compared to 67.2 percent of deaths related to an opioid other than buprenorphine.
Notably, overdose deaths related to buprenorphine were more likely than overdose deaths related to other opioids such as those related to prescription drugs. Benzodiazepines (36.9% vs 14.5%), antidepressants (13.9% vs 5.0%), and anticonvulsants (18.6% vs 5.4%).
Overdose deaths related to buprenorphine were less likely to be related to illegally manufactured fentanyl (50.2%) than Other opioid-related overdose deaths (85.3%).
“These findings help us better understand the circumstances surrounding overdose deaths related to buprenorphine, which should inform policy, ensure safety, and improve clinical outcomes for people with substance use disorders.” It is important to note the presence of other drugs in overdose deaths related to buprenorphine. The complex nature of substance use disorders and polysubstance use requires specific strategies to address it, said Lauren Tanz, director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and lead author of the study.
The data also showed that non-Hispanic whites accounted for a higher proportion of buprenorphine-related deaths (86.1%) than deaths related to other opioids (69.4%).
In contrast, overdose deaths related to buprenorphine involved fewer non-Hispanic Black (5.7%) and Hispanic (5.5%) people. This compared to overdose deaths related to other opioids (18.8% and 9.4%, respectively), which, according to the authors, may be related to unequal access to treatment.
Regardless of the drugs used, the researchers found that Most people who overdose on any opioid, including buprenorphine, had no record of treatment for substance use disorders, Additionally, most of the deaths occurred without the presence of another person, a known risk factor for fatal overdose, reports the app.