Medications for opioid use disorder see massive spikes in funding


The amount of Medicaid money spent on three crucial medications used to fight opioid use disorder (OUD) increased sharply between 2011 and 2016, with the most significant surge occurring after 2014, new research reveals.

The trio of medications — naloxone, buprenorphine and naltrexone — saw an increase of 136 percent in Medicaid funding within those years, which translates from over $394 million to nearly $930 million.

The data comes from the Urban Institute, a government-contracted think tank located in D.C. that focuses on social and economic research.

“[This information] shows a gigantic, rapid and ongoing expansion in provision of effective treatment for opioid use disorder — particularly an increase in the provision of buprenorphine medications after expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in many states in 2014,” said Lisa Clemans, Ph.D., senior research associate and health economist at the Urban Institute.

Annually, the average funding increase during those years was 19 percent, with notable rises in later years and a 30 percent surge during 2015 and 2016.

Medicaid funding was mostly allocated to buprenorphine — an increase of 98 percent from almost $381 million to nearly $754 million. However, funding for naltrexone expanded more rapidly and jumped 1,072 percent, from over $13 million in 2011 to over $156 in 2016. Naloxone spiked 90,205 percent, from only $0.02 million to nearly 20 million in 2016.

Rhode Island, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Ohio and Kentucky were among the states with the largest fatal overdose rates in 2015, which quickly required additional spending on OUD medical care.

“Preliminary data from 2017 shows the overdose death rate is continuing to increase, and a large body of research suggests that under-treatment of opioid use disorder is a serious problem in both Medicaid expansion states and non-expansion states due to provider capacity constraints and a host of other barriers to treatment,” Clemans said. “Some barriers to treatment involve stigma about addiction and misunderstanding about treatment options, which political leadership can address.”

Additionally, West Virginia, Washington, Ohio, Nevada, Nebraska, Colorado and California greatly expanded Medicaid funding on opioid addiction treatment by more than… (continue reading)