Prejudice, Knowledge, or Ignorance? –

August 28, 2020 – As of 2018, only about 5% of physicians had a license to prescribe buprenorphine — despite increasing demand for the drug and an overdose crisis that killed 70,000 people in the United States last year alone.

“[Bupe] can be prescribed for pain without any of these regulatory requirements. When prescribing it for opioid use disorder, it’s layered with all these barriers. There’s a stigma around the medication,” said Beth Connolly, the project director of Pew’s substance use prevention and treatment initiative. ”It was really important to study what some of the barriers are, and whether people are actually prescribing it.” The study looked at the monthly buprenorphine patient volume for physicians licensed to prescribe the drug between April 2017 and January 2019. Just over 50% wrote at least one prescription during that time period. And most of the physicians who did regularly prescribe it didn’t hit their “patient cap,” in some cases prescribing to just a handful of patients.

The problem isn’t necessarily that individual doctors aren’t prescribing to as many patients as possible — it’s that so few doctors can prescribe buprenorphine at all, said Jeanmarie Perrone, the director of the Division of Medical Toxicology and Addiction Medicine Initiatives in the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Emergency Medicine.