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Opioid Coprescription Through Risk Mitigation Guidance and Opioid Agonist Treatment Receipt

JAMA Netw Open. 2024 May 1;7(5):e2411389. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2024.11389.


IMPORTANCE: At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government of British Columbia, Canada, released clinical guidance to support physicians and nurse practitioners in prescribing pharmaceutical alternatives to the toxic drug supply. These alternatives included opioids and other medications under the risk mitigation guidance (RMG), a limited form of prescribed safer supply, designed to reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection and harms associated with illicit drug use. Many clinicians chose to coprescribe opioid medications under RMG alongside opioid agonist treatment (OAT).

OBJECTIVE: To examine whether prescription of hydromorphone tablets or sustained-release oral morphine (opioid RMG) and OAT coprescription compared with OAT alone is associated with subsequent OAT receipt.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This population-based, retrospective cohort study was conducted from March 27, 2020, to August 31, 2021, included individuals from 10 linked health administrative databases from British Columbia, Canada. Individuals who were receiving OAT at opioid RMG initiation and individuals who were receiving OAT and eligible but unexposed to opioid RMG were propensity score matched at opioid RMG initiation on sociodemographic and clinical variables. Data were analyzed between January 2023 and February 2024.

EXPOSURE: Opioid RMG receipt (≥4 days, 1-3 days, or 0 days of opioid RMG dispensed) in a given week.

MAIN OUTCOME AND MEASURES: The main outcome was OAT receipt, defined as at least 1 dispensed dose of OAT in the subsequent week. A marginal structural modeling approach was used to control for potential time-varying confounding.

RESULTS: A total of 4636 individuals (2955 [64%] male; median age, 38 [31-47] years after matching) were receiving OAT at the time of first opioid RMG dispensation (2281 receiving ongoing OAT and 2352 initiating RMG and OAT concurrently). Opioid RMG receipt of 1 to 3 days in a given week increased the probability of OAT receipt by 27% in the subsequent week (adjusted risk ratio, 1.27; 95% CI, 1.25-1.30), whereas receipt of opioid RMG for 4 days or more resulted in a 46% increase in the probability of OAT receipt in the subsequent week (adjusted risk ratio, 1.46; 95% CI, 1.43-1.49) compared with those not receiving opioid RMG. The biological gradient was robust to different exposure classifications, and the association was stronger among those initiating opioid RMG and OAT concurrently.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: This cohort study, which acknowledged the intermittent use of both medications, demonstrated that individuals who were coprescribed opioid RMG had higher adjusted probability of continued OAT receipt or reengagement compared with those not receiving opioid RMG.

PMID:38748421 | DOI:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2024.11389

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