Association between trajectories of buprenorphine treatment and emergency department and in-patient utilization

Wei Hsuan Lo-Ciganic, Walid F. Gellad, Adam J. Gordon, Gerald Cochran, Michael A. Zemaitis, Terri Cathers, David Kelley, Julie M. Donohue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Background and aims: Uncertainty about optimal treatment duration for buprenorphine opioid agonist therapy may lead to substantial variation in provider and payer decision-making regarding treatment course. We aimed to identify distinct trajectories of buprenorphine use and examine outcomes associated with these trajectories to guide health system interventions regarding treatment length. Design: Retrospective cohort study. Setting: US Pennsylvania Medicaid. Patients: A total of 10 945 enrollees aged 18-64 years initiating buprenorphine treatment between 2007 and 2012. Measurements: Group-based trajectory models were used to identify trajectories based on monthly proportion of days covered with buprenorphine in the 12 months post-treatment initiation. We used separate multivariable Cox proportional hazard models to examine associations between trajectories and time to first all-cause hospitalization and emergency department (ED) visit within 12 months after the first-year treatment. Findings: Six trajectories [Bayesian information criterion (BIC) = -86 246.70] were identified: 24.9% discontinued buprenorphine < 3 months, 18.7% discontinued between 3 and 5 months, 12.4% discontinued between 5 and 8 months, 13.3% discontinued > 8 months, 9.5% refilled intermittently and 21.2% refilled persistently for 12 months. Persistent refill trajectories were associated with an 18% lower risk of all-cause hospitalizations [hazard ratio (HR) = 0.82, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.70-0.95] and 14% lower risk of ED visits (HR = 0.86, 95% CI = 0.78-0.95) in the subsequent year, compared with those discontinuing between 3 and 5 months. Conclusions: Six distinct buprenorphine treatment trajectories were identified in this population-based low-income Medicaid cohort in Pennsylvania, USA. There appears to be an association between persistent use of buprenorphine for 12 months and lower risk of all-cause hospitalizations/emergency department visits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)892-902
Number of pages11
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Buprenorphine
  • Group-based trajectory models
  • Medicaid
  • Opioid agonist therapy
  • Opioid use disorders
  • Trajectories
  • Treatment duration
  • Treatment patterns


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