Cost analysis backs immediate access to agonist drugs for opioid dependence (BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS)

A new cost-effectiveness study published this month suggests that California, the state that treats the largest population of opioid-dependent individuals, would gain immensely from offering patients immediate access to agonist drug treatments in the public system.

Published online Nov. 21 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the study states that access to maintenance treatment upon the first treatment visit would save California taxpayers more than $78,000 per patient. The projected savings are based largely on the effects of treatment retention and reduced criminal justice costs. If this approach hypothetically were to be extended to all Californians who started opioid use disorder treatment in 2014, the lifetime savings for this group could be as high as a staggering $3.8 billion, the researchers concluded.

The Annals of Internal Medicine study, led by Emanuel Krebs of St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, sought to determine the cost-effectiveness of opioid agonist treatment for all treatment patients in comparison to the observed standard of care in California's publicly funded treatment system. In 2014, fewer than half of Californians receiving treatment for an opioid use disorder received methadone or buprenorphine.

Gary Enos reports

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