AIMS: To assess differences in the quality of opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment received by Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in health plans that used prior authorization (PA) for buprenorphine-naloxone compared with those enrolled in plans that did not use PA.
DESIGN, SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: Cross-sectional observational study, United States. Continuously enrolled beneficiaries (71 294) with an OUD who filled at least one prescription for buprenorphine-naloxone between March 2012 and July 2017.
MEASUREMENTS: Percentage of patients tested for hepatis B, hepatis C, HIV and liver functioning; percentage of patients with urine drug screens and number of urine drug screens; continuous use of buprenorphine-naloxone for at least 180 days; co-use of benzodiazepines; number of outpatient visits with and without an OUD diagnosis.
FINDINGS: PA was significantly associated with a lower likelihood of testing for hepatitis B [-3.5, 95% confidence interval (CI) = -4.4, -2.7] and C (-5.9, 95% CI = -6.9, -4.9), but the findings were inconclusive as to whether or not there was a difference in HIV (-1.1, 95% CI = -2.5, 0.4) or liver function testing (1.3, 95% CI = -0.1, 2.7). PA was associated with a lower likelihood of urine drug screening (-25.5, 95% CI = -26.8, -24.1) and with fewer drug screens (-2.5, 95% CI = -3.0, -2.1). Findings were inconclusive as to whether or not there was a difference in continuous use of buprenorphine-naloxone (0.3, 95% CI = -1.2, 1.8). PA was associated with fewer outpatient visits (-2.1, 95% CI = -3.0, -1.2) and fewer outpatient visits with an OUD diagnosis (-1.7, 95% CI = -2.1, -1.3). PA was associated with a lower likelihood of filling benzodiazepine prescriptions before and after buprenorphine-naloxone induction (-28.9, 95% CI = -29.6, -28.3) but a greater likelihood of only using benzodiazepines after buprenorphine-naloxone induction (10.6, 95% CI = 9.3, 11.8).
CONCLUSIONS: US Medicare patients subject to prior authorization for buprenorphine-naloxone are not more likely to receive high-quality treatment for opioid use disorder than patients not subject to prior authorization.