Physician-pharmacist collaboration may increase adherence to opioid addiction treatment

A team approach that brings together pharmacists and physicians may improve patient adherence to and satisfaction with opioid use disorder (OUD) programs, researchers say. Too few physicians are authorized to provide buprenorphine treatment, which is safe and effective but requires special training to administer.

A team approach that brings together pharmacists and physicians may improve patient adherence to and satisfaction with opioid use disorder (OUD) programs, researchers say. Too few physicians are authorized to provide buprenorphine treatment, which is safe and effective but requires special training to administer. With the support of NIH, Duke University investigators conducted a 6-month pilot to investigate whether trained community pharmacists might narrow this treatment gap. The experiment revolved around management of buprenorphine maintenance therapy for 71 people with OUD. For the first phase of the trial, six physicians provided initial care, including titrating doses. Patients then switched to monthly maintenance visits with six participating pharmacists, who dispensed buprenorphine, evaluated the medication's efficacy, and offered counseling and referrals to specialists when necessary. The pharmacists then sent feedback to their partnering doctors, who adjusted dosage as warranted. Nearly 89% of participants remained in the study and more than 95% complied with the daily medication regimen, suggesting that physician-pharmacist collaboration is effective. There were no opioid-related emergencies or hospital admissions during the study, which is reported in Addiction.