Jun 28, 2023 - Health

Oregon pharmacies are well stocked with addiction treatments

Illustration of a turn over pill bottle the pills forming an upward trending arrow

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Across the country, it can be difficult to receive medication for opioid addiction, a recent study found, but Oregon has a better supply than most other states.

Why it matters: In Multnomah County, there have been 580 confirmed or suspected drug overdose deaths since June 2022, according to the most recent data from the Tri-County Opioid Safety Coalition. Federal data suggests only slightly more than one in 10 people with opioid use disorder receive medication for it.

Driving the news: According to a study published in JAMA Network Open last month, 57.9% of more than 5,200 pharmacies in 32 states reported having Suboxone, which contains buprenorphine and naloxone, writes Axios' Christine Clarridge.

  • In Oregon, 90 out of the 117 pharmacies surveyed, or 76.9%, reported having buprenorphine — which can be dispensed via a monthly injection or daily tablet, according to the study.
  • By contrast, only 37% of pharmacies surveyed in Florida reported having the medication on hand.

Methadone and buprenorphine — a component of Suboxone — are widely considered to be the gold standard of care for opioid addiction.

  • According to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), the state has not experienced any naloxone shortages due to a bulk purchase agreement with the Harm Reduction Clearinghouse, which supplies the overdose reversal drug in both injectable and nasal spray form.

The intrigue: Synthetic opioids like fentanyl are escalating Oregon's overdose crisis, making access to medication-assisted treatment even more important for those struggling with addiction. However, barriers and high levels of demand continue to strain the state's public health system.

  • Since 2020, there has been a 210% increase in unintentional fentanyl-related fatalities across the state, according to the data Axios received from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The numbers: From January to December 2021, more than 57,000 people were diagnosed with opioid use disorder in Oregon. Of those people, over 13,000 were given buprenorphine, nearly a 2% increase from the previous year, per OHA statistics provided to Axios.

  • Only 13 of Oregon's 36 counties have state-funded opioid treatment programs. Coastal and rural eastern communities are "severely lacking" such programs, according to OHA.

What we're watching: Last week, before the legislative session ended, state lawmakers reversed a part of Measure 110 by passing a bill criminalizing the possession of small amounts of fentanyl, which includes a $100 fine.

  • On Sunday, a bill that allows the distribution of naloxone in more public settings, like schools and government buildings, also passed.

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