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When most people think of the victims of the nation’s opioid abuse epidemic, they seldom picture members of the Medicare set.

 

But a research letter published Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry found Medicare beneficiaries had the highest and most rapidly growing rate of “opioid use disorder.” Six of every 1,000 recipients struggle with the condition, compared with one out of every 1,000 patients covered through commercial insurance plans.

 

The letter also concluded that Medicare beneficiaries may face a treatment gap. In 2013, doctors prescribed a high number of opioid prescription painkillers for this population — which put patients at risk for addiction — but far fewer prescriptions for buprenorphine-naloxone, the only effective drug therapy for opioid use disorder covered by Medicare Part D.

 

“The take home message is we have very effective treatments,” said Anna Lembke, one of the research letter’s authors and assistant professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine. “But they’re not widely accessible.”

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Kaiser Health News

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