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Physician-Pharmacist Buprenorphine Treatment Collaboration Shows Strong Returns

January 12, 2021

Results of a NIDA-supported pilot study released on Monday showed that collaboration between physicians and pharmacists could lead to improved medication adherence among patients being treated for opioid use disorder.

The results, which were published Monday in the journal Addiction, could be a significant breakthrough for expanding access to medication-assisted treatment by leaning on community resources, as less than 10% of primary care providers are waivered for prescribing buprenorphine, but 90% of the U.S. population lives within 5 minutes of a pharmacy.

From March through December 2018, care for 71 patients using buprenorphine maintenance therapy was transferred from six waivered physicians to six trained community pharmacists. In the initial phase of treatment, gradually increasing doses of buprenorphine were administered to patients. Once a satisfactory daily dosage was identified, the patients then participated in monthly maintenance visits with pharmacists, who were able to assess the medication’s effectiveness and provide counseling and referrals to specialists, if necessary. The pharmacists also provided feedback to the original prescribing physicians where adjustments to dosages were needed.

Researchers found that 89% of participants remained in the study and 95% adhered to their daily medication regimen. Moreover, no opioid-related emergencies or hospitalizations were reported, and less than 5% of urine screenings were positive for opioids in the sixth month among participants who completed all screenings in the study.

More than 90% of patients said they were “very satisfied with their experience and quality of treatment offered” and that the transfer of their treatment was not difficult. Participating physicians and pharmacists were similarly positive in their feedback about the process.

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