Early buprenorphine-naloxone initiation for opioid use disorder reduces opioid overdose, emergency room visits and healthcare cost compare to late initiation

Tianyu Sun, College of Pharmacy
Hilary Aroke, College of Pharmacy
Stephen Kogut, College of Pharmacy
Natallia Katenka, University of Rhode Island
Jeffrey Bratberg, University of Rhode Island
Ashley Buchanan, University of Rhode Island


Background: Although the effectiveness of buprenorphine-naloxone (BUP-NX) has been established, real-world evidence on the benefits of early treatment initiation is limited. Objective: To evaluate the association between early BUP-NX initiation and health-related outcomes among insured adults with opioid use disorder (OUD). Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional analysis using the Optum’s de-identified Clinformatics® Data Mart Database from 2010 to 2018. Patients who initiated BUP-NX within 30 days of OUD diagnosis were classified as early initiators. Patients who initiated BUP-NX later, but within the one-year follow-up, were defined as late initiators. Outcomes included opioid overdose, opioid overdose-related emergency department (ED) visits, and all-cause healthcare cost during the year after OUD diagnosis. We employed generalized linear models to compare outcomes between early and late initiators, adjusting for baseline covariates and accounting for missing information for covariates using multiple imputation. Results: A total of 8,388 patients with OUD were identified; mean age was 39.9 years; 36% were female; and 67.6% were early initiators. Early initiators had an estimated 42% lower rate of opioid overdose (adjusted rate ratio (aRR) = 0.58; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.52, 0.64); 51% lower rate of opioid overdose-related ED visits (aRR = 0.49; 95% CI: 0.44, 0.55); and 31% lower total healthcare cost (adjusted cost ratio = 0.69; 95% CI: 0.66, 0.72), compared to late initiators. Conclusion: Compared to late BUP-NX initiation, early initiation was associated with a lower risk of opioid overdose and opioid overdose-related ED visits, and reduced total healthcare cost among insured adult patients with OUD.