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NIH Finds Methadone and Buprenorphine Effective in OUD After Overdose

June 20, 2018
Researchers also find alarming stats on the lack of medications prescribed to treat opioid use disorder

A PPM Brief

A recent study,1 funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and co-funded in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, found that methadone or buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD) after a nonfatal opioid overdose is associated with significant reductions in opioid-related mortality. This study is the first to look at the association between using medication to treat OUD and mortality among patients experiencing a nonfatal opioid overdose. Buprenorphine, methadone, as well as naltrexone are all FDA approved for the treatment of opioid use disorder.

Studying data from 17,568 adults in Massachusetts who survived an opioid overdose between 2012 and 2014, researchers found that opioid overdose deaths decreased by 59% for those receiving methadone and 38% for those receiving buprenorphine over a 12-month follow-up period. The study confirms previous research on the role that methadone and buprenorphine may play in effectively treating OUD and preventing future deaths from overdose.

In the first year following an overdose, researchers found that less than one-third of patients were provided with any medication for OUD, including methadone (11%); buprenorphine (17%), and naltrexone (6%), with 5% receiving more than one medication; the authors noted the underutilization of these drugs. Also, despite having had an opioid overdose, 34% of individuals studied who experienced an overdose were subsequently prescribed one or more prescriptions for opioid painkillers over the next 12 months, and 26%were prescribed benzodiazepines.1

“Nonfatal opioid overdose is a missed opportunity to engage individuals at high risk of death,” said lead investigator Marc Larochelle, MD, at Boston Medical Center’s Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston University School of Medicine, in the NIH’s press release. “We need to better understand barriers to treatment access and implement policy and practice reforms to improve both engagement and retention in effective treatment.”

Last updated on: June 22, 2018
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