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Introduction: The opioid overdose crisis in the United States has become a significant national emergency. Buprenorphine, a primary medication for individuals coping with opioid use disorder (OUD), presents promising pharmacokinetic properties for use in primary care settings, and is often delivered as a take-home therapy. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the scarcity of access to buprenorphine, leading to dire consequences for those with OUD. Most existing studies, primarily focused on the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak, highlight the challenges in accessing medications for opioid use disorder (MOUDs), particularly buprenorphine. However, these studies only cover a relatively short timeframe. Methods: To bridge this research gap, in our study, we utilized 33 months of California’s prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) data to provide insights into real-world buprenorphine dispensing trends since the onset of the pandemic from 2018 to 2021, focusing on outcomes such as patient counts, prescription volumes, prescriber involvement, days’ supply, and dosage. Statistical analysis employed interrupted time series analysis to measure changes in trends before and during the pandemic. Results: We found no significant impact on patient counts or prescription volumes during the pandemic, although it impeded the upward trajectory of prescriber numbers that was evident prior to the onset of the pandemic. An immediate increase in days’ supply per prescription was observed post-pandemic. Conclusion: Our findings differ in comparison to previous data regarding the raw monthly count of patients and prescriptions. The analysis encompassed uninsured patients, offering a comprehensive perspective on buprenorphine prescribing in California. Our study’s insights contribute to understanding the impact of COVID-19 on buprenorphine access, emphasizing the need for policy adjustments.


This article was originally published in Healthcare, volume 12, in 2024.

This scholarship is part of the Chapman University COVID-19 Archives.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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