Feb 13, 2023 - Health

Addiction drug prices vary widely

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Medication used to treat opioid use disorder has become cheaper over the last several years, but affordability can still be a problem, depending on a patient's insurance, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open.

Why it matters: Experts have called for improved access to medication-assisted treatment like buprenorphine to fight the substance use crisis. But there's uneven access based on cost.

Details: The CDC-led study found the overall daily average of out-of-pocket costs for buprenorphine decreased from $4.79 in 2015 to $1.19 in 2020 in their analysis across Medicaid, commercial, and self-pay.

Yes, but: The cost varied widely depending on which insurance a patient had and where they lived.

  • Medicaid patients — which accounted for 43% of prescriptions in 2020 — had the lowest out-of-pocket cost of 10 cents while self-pay had the highest at $7.50.
  • The South, parts of which have been slow to expand Medicaid, had both the highest number of prescriptions written and the greatest average cost at about $2.91 a day.
  • Meanwhile, patients in the northeast saw a mean daily cost of $1.04.

The bottom line: Insurance type plays a role in how significant the financial barriers are to opioid use treatments.

  • Researchers suggested public health and insurer strategies to reduce the cost burden may keep more people on buprenorphine.
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