Patterns and Quality of Buprenorphine Opioid Agonist Treatment in a Large Medicaid Program

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Objectives: Use of buprenorphine-an effective treatment for opioid use disorders (OUDs)-has increased rapidly in recent years and is often financed by Medicaid. We investigated predictors of buprenorphine treatment, patterns of care, and quality of care in a large state Medicaid program. Methods: Data from Pennsylvania Medicaid from 2007 to 2012 provided information regarding diagnoses, demographic characteristics, enrollment, and use of inpatient and outpatient services, and prescription drugs. We identified adult enrollees using buprenorphine, and examined prevalence of OUD diagnosis and patterns of use (duration and dose) and quality of care (physician visits, receipt of behavioral health counseling, urine drug screens, and other prescription drug use). We use a mixed logistic regression model to examine enrollee characteristics associated with buprenorphine use. Results: The share of enrollees with OUD filling prescriptions for buprenorphine increased from 2985 (9.8%) to 12,691 (25.2%) from 2007 to 2012. Between 26.2 and 32.0% of enrollees using buprenorphine had no diagnosis of OUD, depending on the year. Only 60.1% of enrollees with buprenorphine use received at least one urine drug screen, 41.0% had behavioral health counseling services, and 34.7 and 38.0% had other opioid and benzodiazepine claims, respectively, concomitant with buprenorphine use. Quality of care was lower among those with no OUD diagnosis recorded. The mean daily doses of buprenorphine decreased over time. We found wide variation in likelihood of buprenorphine use among those with OUD based upon age, sex, and race. Conclusions: Increases in buprenorphine treatment in a Medicaid population were observed across time; however, increases varied by age, sex, and rate, and the quality of care received seemed to be generally poor. The quality of the provision of buprenorphine treatment occurring in Medicaid populations should be further explored.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)470-477
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Addiction Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Medicaid
  • buprenorphine
  • health services
  • opioid substitution treatment
  • opioid-related disorders


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