Reaching addiction patients where they’re at

Ending the opioid crisis may require reaching patients outside the healthcare system

Coming at the opioid crisis from two different angles, NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse and Alkermes plc have concluded that ending the epidemic will mean developing ways of getting medication to patients who fall outside the traditional healthcare system. By pioneering new commercial models, they hope to reach these patients through the criminal justice system, community organizations and healthcare centers.

Although three classes of medication are on the market in the U.S. for opioid use disorder, many of the people who need them have no access to physicians, treatment centers or the basic necessities of daily living.

The patients include members of the prison population, the homeless and low income individuals without health insurance.

The challenges are more acute in the U.S. than in many places in Europe, where there are national payers that provide coverage and supportive services. In Eastern Europe, where opioid use is illegal, as is treatment, there are few options.

NIDA Director Nora Volkow told BioCentury that for opioid use disorder, the standard rubric for testing, prescribing and delivering medicines doesn’t apply. The population in whom the drugs are tested doesn’t properly represent many of the patients who need the therapies, and delivery via prescribing physicians and treatment centers is inconsistent

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