Opioid use disorder treatment inaccessible for many Appalachian patients, study finds

Patients in central Appalachia, the epicenter of the opioid epidemic, face barriers in accessing treatments for opioid use disorder, according to a study published Aug. 20 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers from the Atlanta-based Emory Rollins School of Public Health found that about a quarter of pharmacies in rural Kentucky denied buprenorphine to patients with prescriptions, despite multiple federal and state efforts to increase access to the drug, which treats opioid use disorder. The researchers also noted that buprenorphine lessens the risk of overdose, as well as HIV and hepatitis C infection.

They wrote that the reasons for these denials may stem from a lack of physician-pharmacist trust, stigma against patients with opioid use disorder and drug manufacturers' contradictory method of monitoring opioid sales, in which they group together both opioids and the drugs that treat opioid use disorder. 

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