Prior Authorization Restrictions on Medications for Opioid Use Disorder: Trends in State Laws from 2005 to 2019

Journal: Annals of Medicine, 2023, doi: 10.1080/07853890.2023.2171107

Authors: Barbara Andraka-Christou, Olivia Golan, Rachel Totaram, Maggie Ohama, Brendan Saloner, Adam J. Gordon & Bradley D. Stein


Research Objective: Medications for opioid use disorder (MOUDs) – including methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone – are the most effective treatments for opioid use disorder (OUD). Historically, insurers have required prior authorization for MOUD, but prior authorization is often reported as a key barrier to MOUD prescribing. Some states have passed laws prohibiting MOUD prior authorization requirements. We sought to identify the frequency of MOUD prior authorization prohibitions in state laws and to categorize types of prohibitions.

Methods: We searched for regulations and statutes present in all U.S. states and Washington DC between 2005 and 2019 using MOUD-related terms in Westlaw legal software. In qualitative software, we coded laws discussing MOUD prior authorization using template analysis – a mixed deductive/inductive approach. Finally, we used coded laws to identify frequencies of states with prior authorization prohibitions, including changes over time.

Results: No states had laws prohibiting MOUD prior authorization between 2005 and 2015, with the first prohibition appearing in 2016. By 2019, fifteen states had MOUD prior authorization prohibitions. States varied significantly in their approach to prohibiting MOUD prior authorization. In 2019, it was more common for states to have MOUD prior authorization prohibitions applying to all insurers (n = 10 states) than to only Medicaid (n = 7 states) or only non-Medicaid insurers (n = 1 state). In 2019, general prior authorization prohibitions (n = 10 states) were more common than prohibitions only applicable to medications on the formulary, prohibitions only applicable to medications on the preferred drug list, prohibitions only applicable during the first 5 days of treatment, and prohibitions only applicable during the first 30 days of treatment.

Conclusions: The number of states with an MOUD prior authorization law prohibition increased in recent years. Such laws could help expand access to life-saving OUD treatments by making it easier for clinicians to prescribe MOUD.

Key Messages: No states had MOUD prior authorization prohibitions between 2005 and 2015 in state statutes or regulations, and only one state had such a prohibition in 2016. By 2019, fifteen states had an MOUD prior authorization prohibition law. States varied significantly in their approach to prohibiting MOUD prior authorization, including with respect to the insurer type, duration of the prohibition, and applicable medication.

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Evaluation of Post-Discharge Engagement for Emergency Department Patients with Opioid Use History Who Received Telehealth Recovery Coaching Services

Journal: Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 2023, doi: 10.1186/s13011-023-00523-4

Authors: Dennis P. Watson, Peter Phalen, Spencer Medcalf, Sarah Messmer & Alan McGuire


Background: In recent years, emergency departments (EDs) across the nation have implemented peer recovery coach (PRC) services to support patients who use opioids. The majority of such interventions discussed in the literature follow an in-person modality where PRCs engage patients directly at the ED bedside. However, the use of telehealth services in EDs is becoming more popular. These services connect PRCs with ED patients in real-time via secure communications technology, and very little is known about the service- and clinical-based outcomes with which they are associated. The current study sought to assess factors associated with successful post-discharge follow-up of patients with a history of opioid use who received PRC telehealth services while in the ED.

Method: Data come from records for 917 patients who engaged with a telehealth PRC one or more times (1208 total engagements) at 1 of 13 EDs within the same health system. A multilevel Poisson regression model was used to assess the degree to which variables predicted successful post-discharge follow-up, defined as the number of times a PRC successfully spoke with the patient each month after ED discharge.

Results: At least one follow-up was successfully completed by a PRC for 23% of enrolled patients. Significant predictors of successful follow-up included patient employment at baseline (Incidence Rate Ratio [IRR]: 2.8, CI: 2.05-3.9), living in a rural area (IRR: 1.8, CI: 1.04-3.2), PRC provision of referrals (IRR: 1.7, CI: 1.2-2.2), number of ED encounters in the previous 365 days (IRR: 0.99, CI: 0.98-0.99), and duration of the initial PRC telehealth interaction (IRR: 0.87, CI: 0.85-0.88).

Conclusion: Given that relationship development is a key tool in the PRC profession, understanding successful follow-up associated with telehealth engagement has unique importance. The results have potential utility for planning and implementing peer telehealth services in EDs and other locations, which is needed for the development of the PRC profession and the likely expansion of peer telehealth services.

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Prevalence and Association of Non-Medical Cannabis Use with Post-Procedural Healthcare Utilisation in Patients Undergoing Surgery or Interventional Procedures: A Retrospective Cohort Study

Journal: eClinicalMedicine, 2023, doi: 10.1016/j.eclinm.2023.101831

Authors: Elena Ahrens, Luca J. Wachtendorf, Laetitia S. Chiarella, Sarah Ashrafian, Aiman Suleiman, Tim M. Tartler, Basit A. Azizi, … Maximilian S. Schaefera


Background: There is paucity of data regarding prevalence and key harms of non-medical cannabis use in surgical patients. We investigated whether cannabis use in patients undergoing surgery or interventional procedures patients was associated with a higher degree of post-procedural healthcare utilisation. Methods: 210,639 adults undergoing non-cardiac surgery between January 2008 and June 2020 at an academic healthcare network in Massachusetts, USA, were included. The primary exposure was use of cannabis, differentiated by reported ongoing non-medical use, self-identified during structured, preoperative nursing/ physician interviews, or diagnosis of cannabis use disorder based on International Classification of Diseases, 9th/ 10th Revision, diagnostic codes. The main outcome measure was the requirement of advanced post-procedural healthcare utilisation (unplanned intensive care unit admission, hospital re-admission or non-home discharge).

Findings: 16,211 patients (7.7%) were identified as cannabis users. The prevalence of cannabis use increased from 4.9% in 2008 to 14.3% by 2020 (p < 0.001). Patients who consumed cannabis had higher rates of psychiatric comorbidities (25.3 versus 16.8%; p < 0.001) and concomitant non-tobacco substance abuse (30.2 versus 7.0%; p < 0.001). Compared to non-users, patients with a diagnosis of cannabis use disorder had higher odds of requiring advanced post-procedural healthcare utilisation after adjusting for patient characteristics, concomitant substance use and socioeconomic factors (aOR [adjusted odds ratio] 1.16; 95% CI 1.02–1.32). By contrast, patients with ongoing non-medical cannabis use had lower odds of advanced post-procedural healthcare utilisation (aOR 0.87; 95% CI 0.81–0.92, compared to non-users).

Interpretation: One in seven patients undergoing surgery or interventional procedures in 2020 reported cannabis consumption. Differential effects on post-procedural healthcare utilisation were observed between patients with nonmedical cannabis use and cannabis use disorder.

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Examining Associations Between MDMA/Ecstasy and Classic Psychedelic Use and Impairments in Social Functioning in a U.S. Adult Sample

Journal: Scientific Reports, 2023, doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-29763-x

Authors: Grant Jones, Joshua Lipson & Erica Wang


Impairment in social functioning is a common source of morbidity across many mental health disorders, yet there is a dearth of effective and easily implemented interventions to support social functioning. MDMA/ecstasy and classic psychedelics (psilocybin, LSD, peyote, mescaline) represent two potential treatments for impairments in social functioning, as evidence suggests these compounds may be supportive for alleviating social difficulties. Using a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2015-2019) (N = 214,505), we used survey-weighted multivariable ordinal and logistic regression to examine the associations between lifetime use of the aforementioned compounds and impairments in social functioning in the past year. Lifetime MDMA/ecstasy use was associated with lowered odds of three of our four social impairment outcomes: difficulty dealing with strangers (aOR 0.92), difficulty participating in social activities (aOR 0.90), and being prevented from participating in social activities (aOR 0.84). Lifetime mescaline use was also associated with lowered odds of difficulty dealing with strangers (aOR 0.85). All other substances either shared no relationship with impairments in social functioning or conferred increased odds of our outcomes. Future experimental studies can assess whether these relationships are causal.

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Comparing Maternal Substance Use and Perinatal Outcomes Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Journal: Journal of Perinatology, 2023, doi: 10.1038/s41372-023-01613-8

Authors: Joan Lien, Tristan Hayes, Feng Liu-Smith & Divya Rana


Objective: To examine the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on maternal substance abuse and neonatal outcomes.

Study Design: Cross-sectional observational study of neonates admitted to the NICU and born to mothers with evidence of substance abuse pre-pandemic compared to during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Result: We noted a significant increase in fentanyl (12% vs. 0.6%, p < 0.001) and tobacco use (64% vs. 33%, p < 0.001) during the pandemic compared to pre-pandemic, including an increase in fentanyl use among mothers enrolled in opioid maintenance therapy (OMT) during the pandemic (32.3% vs. 1.5%, p < 0.001). There was a significant increase in preterm births (58% vs. 48%, p = 0.022) and lower birth weight (2315 ± 815 vs. 2455 ± 861 g, p = 0.049) during pandemic.

Conclusion: There was a significant increase in maternal fentanyl use during the pandemic, even with OMT enrollment, with an increase in preterm births and lower birth weights among infants born to mothers with substance use.

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