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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: Opioid Treatment Hampered by Beliefs Not Grounded in Science

A breadth of academic research demonstrates that there are three medications that successfully treat opioid use disorder (OUD): methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. However, patients face unnecessary barriers to evidence-based treatment from government regulations and providers’ own beliefs that are not grounded in science, writes Dr. Richard Saitz, professor and chair of community health sciences at Boston University School of Public Health, in an Annals of Internal Medicine editorial.

“Patients should be given every option in their treatment for opioid use disorder and work with their clinicians to determine the best treatment plan for them,” says Dr. Saitz, who co-authored the editorial with Dr. Josh Barocas, an infectious disease physician at Boston Medical Center and assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.

Providers should evaluate treatment for OUD like any other chronic illness, the authors write, which means assessing the efficacy, cost, and risks and benefits analysis when determining treatment plans with their patients.

Unlike many chronic conditions, two of the three medications for OUD are limited by regulations. Methadone is only available in federally certified treatment programs and buprenorphine can only be prescribed by physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners who have completed training and have been waivered by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Most physicians do not have this waiver, and many who do are not prescribing buprenorphine at all.

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