Knowledge of MATs can help overcome challenges of opioid abuse

April 29, 2014

The biggest challenge in tackling opioid abuse is lack of awareness and understanding of addictive diseases generally and specifically opioid use disorders, as well as misinformation and negative perceptions of medication-assisted therapies (MATs), according to a recent opinion article published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The biggest challenge in tackling opioid abuse is lack of awareness and understanding of addictive diseases generally and specifically opioid use disorders, as well as misinformation and negative perceptions of medication-assisted therapies (MATs), according to a recent opinion article published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Medication-Assisted Therapies-Tackling the Opioid Overdose Epidemic” detailed the importance of MATs in preventing opioid overdose fatalities and addressing the underlying problem of opioid use disorder.

“Medication-assisted therapies refers to the use of FDA-approved medications for treating opioid addiction-methadone, buprenorphine/naloxone and extended-release injectable naltrexone- along with appropriate medical, psychiatric and psychosocial services,” according to Robert Lubran, MS, MPA, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Director for the Division of Pharmacologic Therapies.

Formulary managers should include methadone, buprenorphine/naloxone, and extended-release injectable naltrexone on formularies and remove barriers to access and appropriate care such as: dosage limits; annual or lifetime medication limits; initial authorization and reauthorization requirements; low levels of coverage for counseling services; and fail-first criteria; all of which discourage appropriate care and limit access, according to the authors.

“Combined with limited access, patients are deterred from seeking appropriate treatment and providers are discouraged from delivering it,” Lubran said.

Prescription-drug-monitoring programs should be available to pharmacists, formulary managers, and treatment providers, according to Lubran. “Pharmacists should be informed and supported in efforts to educate patients and community members about overdose prevention and medication-assisted therapy,” he said.