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Buprenorphine Access and Utilization for the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder in Pennsylvania

Ward, Natalie (2023) Buprenorphine Access and Utilization for the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder in Pennsylvania. Master Essay, University of Pittsburgh.

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Introduction: Pennsylvania has been affected by an opioid epidemic for several years. Buprenorphine is one medication authorized to treat opioid use disorder (OUD). Despite being an effective treatment option that reduces the risk of morbidity and mortality from OUD, buprenorphine is underutilized across the country. There is a large gap in knowledge in examining buprenorphine access and utilization at the county level in Pennsylvania. Identifying the level of need for buprenorphine across the state will highlight areas that may benefit from opioid remediation funds forthcoming from national opioid settlements.
Methods: A descriptive study was conducted using data from Pennsylvania’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and Open Data Pennsylvania. The study identified the number of buprenorphine prescribers in each county in 2021, the number of buprenorphine prescriptions in each county in 2021, and the estimated number of people with OUD in each county in 2020. These counts were used to calculate the rate of access to a buprenorphine prescriber and the rates of buprenorphine utilization at the county and the health district levels.
Results: In 2021, for an estimated 299,000 persons with OUD, there were 5,707 authorized buprenorphine prescribers who wrote over 1.2 million buprenorphine prescriptions in Pennsylvania. Differences in access to buprenorphine exist. Philadelphia County and Allegheny County had 20.87 and 24.32 prescribers per 1000 persons with OUD, respectively. Much of the remaining areas of the state had a lower rate of access to a prescriber than these two areas. Thirteen of the 67 counties had fewer than 5 buprenorphine prescribers. However, 19 of 67 Pennsylvania counties had suppressed estimates of the number of people with OUD, limiting the extent to which rates could be calculated in these areas.
Conclusion: This study highlights the need for further research on buprenorphine utilization in many areas of the state. Future research should examine individual level trends for buprenorphine prescribing, buprenorphine initiation, and treatment retention. Examining these trends will highlight the public health importance of having adequate access to and utilization of buprenorphine, and future research can guide interventions and policies to reduce the burden of the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania.


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Item Type: Other Thesis, Dissertation, or Long Paper (Master Essay)
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Ward, Natalienaw85@pitt.edunaw85
ContributionContributors NameEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairSonger, Thomas J.tjs@pitt.edutjsUNSPECIFIED
Committee MemberHawk, Marymary.hawk@pitt.edumary.hawkUNSPECIFIED
Committee MemberArnold, Aaronaaron@pppgh.orgUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Committee MemberGlynn, Nancy W.epidnwg@pitt.eduepidnwgUNSPECIFIED
Date: 16 May 2023
Date Type: Completion
Number of Pages: 53
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Epidemiology
Degree: MPH - Master of Public Health
Thesis Type: Master Essay
Refereed: Yes
Date Deposited: 16 May 2023 19:12
Last Modified: 16 May 2023 19:12


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