12:10 PM
Apr 12, 2019
 |  BioCentury  |  Product Development

Changing models and minds to improve access to addiction treatment

How companies are changing reimbursement, education to improve access to addiction meds

A lack of acknowledgment by key stakeholders in the healthcare system that medications can treat opioid abuse, along with a fragmented reimbursement system, means that effective treatments aren’t getting to the majority of patients who need them, exacerbating the opioid crisis.

Although the three classes of medications on the market for opioid use disorder all reduced relapse and improved patient outcomes in clinical and observational studies, only a small fraction of patients are given these therapies, according to a study published March 20 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

“To stem the opioid crisis, it is critical for all FDA-approved options to be available for all people with opioid use disorder,” wrote the authors.

The report cites at least four impediments to uptake of the treatments: lack of access, social stigma, a failure to educate healthcare professionals about the benefits of marketed pharmacotherapies, and disjointed reimbursement models for large parts of the patient population -- such as those who are incarcerated or homeless.

The report was commissioned by NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which is working on methods to incorporate all opioid abuse patients into the treatment paradigm. Alkermes plc is also building new models to treat these patients where they live, rather than through traditional care delivery routes (see “Reaching Addiction Patients Where They’re At”).

But there remains a mindset among many professionals who treat the disease that medications aren’t an appropriate tool. The result is a shortage of physicians who can and do prescribe these treatments.

Only 4% of addiction treatment centers in the U.S. offer all three approved opioid addiction medicines, and the majority offer no pharmacotherapy intervention whatsoever, according to an analysis by amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research.

“Of the almost 14,000 residential treatment centers out there, for the majority their philosophy is abstinence-based.”

Jim Robinson, Alkermes

Companies are tackling the issue of how to improve access of the therapies to patients. Alkermes is using new reimbursement models that couple payment for the treatment to improved patient outcomes and benefits to the healthcare system.

Orexo AB is focused on increasing the...

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