TUESDAY, April 21, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Few primary care physicians report interest in treating patients with opioid use disorder (OUD), according to a research letter published online April 21 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Emma E. McGinty, Ph.D., from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Heath in Baltimore, and colleagues surveyed primary care physicians regarding their beliefs and attitudes about OUD medication; 361 eligible physicians responded to the survey and 25 surveys were excluded from the analysis.

The researchers found that two-thirds of physicians believed that OUD treatment is more effective with versus without medication and that medication can safely be used to manage OUD in the long term (67.1 and 63.7 percent, respectively). Physicians were more likely to perceive that buprenorphine was effective versus methadone or injectable, extended-release naltrexone (77.5 versus 62.1 or 51.4 percent, respectively). Overall, 20.2 percent of physicians expressed an interest in OUD treatment for patients. Few physicians reported prescribing buprenorphine or naltrexone for OUD (7.6 and 4 percent, respectively), and only 11.8 percent expressed interest in obtaining a buprenorphine waiver. Most supported increasing insurance coverage of and government investment in OUD medication (81.8 and 76.4 percent, respectively), but only 47.7 and 38 percent, respectively, supported allowing physicians to prescribe methadone for OUD in primary care settings or eliminating the waiver requirement for buprenorphine.

“Our findings suggest an urgent need to increase primary care physicians’ endorsement of the effectiveness of medication for OUD and their willingness to prescribe it,” the authors write.

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