Association between buprenorphine/naloxone and high-dose opioid analgesic prescribing in Kentucky, 2012–2017

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Introduction: Buprenorphine/naloxone treatment is a highly effective treatment for opioid use disorder decreasing illicit opioid use and both all-cause and opioid-involved overdose mortality. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationships between buprenorphine/naloxone prescribing and high-dose opioid analgesic prescribing (HDOAP) over time. Methods: This longitudinal study used 2012–2017 Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting data and cross-lagged structural equation analysis. For each quarter-county observation, HDOAP rate (per 1,000 residents with opioid analgesic prescriptions) was used to predict buprenorphine/naloxone prescribing rate at the next quarter, and simultaneously buprenorphine/naloxone prescribing rate was used to predict HDOAP at the next quarter, accounting for baseline socioeconomic status, medical needs for opioid analgesics, and heroin availability. Results: On average, HDOAP rates in Kentucky decreased by more than 10% (p <.0001) and buprenorphine/naloxone prescribing rates increased by more than 5% (p <.0001) per quarter over the study period. Every one-per-thousand higher HDOAP rate in an earlier quarter was associated with a 0.01/1,000 increase in the buprenorphine/naloxone prescribing rate in a later quarter (p =.009). Conversely, a one-unit higher buprenorphine/naloxone prescribing rate in an earlier quarter was associated with a 0.01/1,000 reduction in the HDOAP rate in a subsequent quarter (p =.017). Conclusions: Our results indicate a significant reciprocal relationship between HDOAP and buprenorphine/naloxone prescribing and a clinically meaningful effect of buprenorphine/naloxone prescribing on reducing HDOAP. Future studies on buprenorphine/naloxone treatment expansion should take into account this bi-directional association in the context of longitudinal data and evaluate for public health benefits beyond the reduction of HDOAP.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107606
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier B.V.


  • Buprenorphine/Naloxone
  • High-dose opioid analgesic prescribing
  • Methadone
  • Opioid use disorder
  • Prescription drug monitoring program

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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