Large number of patients on anti-addiction medication may also have opioid prescription

Approximately two-fifths of patients prescribed buprenorphine — a medication used to curb opioid addiction — filled at least one prescription for opioids while being treated with the anti-addiction medication, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Addiction.

For the study, researchers examined records of more than 38,000 buprenorphine users in 11 states between January 2010 and July 2012, according to a report from The Washington Post. Since buprenorphine can sometimes be used to treat pain and not opioid addiction, the researchers also analyzed a subset of 20,124 people who received a form of the drug used specifically to treat opioid addiction, Suboxone, the report states.

Researchers found the average length of stay on buprenorphine was just 55 days, much less than experts' recommend, according to the report. When patients stopped receiving buprenorphine, two-thirds of them went back to filling prescriptions for opioids, according to the study.

Additionally, among the 20,124 people in the Suboxone subset, 27 percent used another opioid during treatment, and 54 percent received one after treatment ended, The Washington Post reports.

According to the report, Caleb Alexander, co-director of the Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, said the research "raises important questions about the quality of care these patients are receiving and the degree to which their care is coordinated across our fragmented healthcare system."


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