Perceptions of buprenorphine barriers and efficacy among nurse practitioners and physician assistants
Andraka-Christou, B., Page, C., Schoebel, V. et al. Perceptions of buprenorphine barriers and efficacy among nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Addict Sci Clin Pract 17, 43 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13722-022-00321-6
Medications for opioid use disorder (MOUDs), including methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone, decrease mortality and morbidity for people with opioid use disorder (OUD). Buprenorphine and methadone have the strongest evidence base among MOUDs. Unlike methadone, buprenorphine may be prescribed in office-based settings in the U.S., including by nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) who have a federal waiver and adhere to federal patient limits. Buprenorphine is underutilized nationally, particularly in rural areas, and NPs/PAs could help address this gap. Therefore, we sought to identify perceptions of buprenorphine efficacy and perceptions of prescribing barriers among NPs/PAs. We also sought to compare perceived buprenorphine efficacy and perceived prescribing barriers between waivered and non-waivered NPs/PAs, as well as to compare perceived buprenorphine efficacy to perceived naltrexone and methadone efficacy.
We disseminated an online survey to a random national sample of NPs/PAs. We used Mann–Whitney U tests to compare between waivered and non-waivered respondents. We used non-parametric Friedman tests and post-hoc Wilcoxon signed-rank tests to compare perceptions of medication types.
240 respondents participated (6.5% response rate). Most respondents agreed buprenorphine is efficacious and believed counseling and peer support should complement buprenorphine. Buprenorphine was generally perceived as more efficacious than both naltrexone and methadone. Perceived buprenorphine efficacy and prescribing barriers differed by waiver status. Non-waivered practitioners were more likely than waivered practitioners to have concerns about buprenorphine affecting patient mix. Among waivered NPs/PAs, key buprenorphine prescribing barriers were insurance prior authorization and detoxification access.
Our results suggest that different policies should target perceived barriers affecting waivered versus non-waivered NPs/PAs. Concerns about patient mix suggest stigmatization of patients with OUD. NP/PA education is needed about comparative medication efficaciousness, particularly regarding methadone. Even though many buprenorphine treatment patients benefits from counseling and/or peer support groups, NPs/PAs should be informed that such psychosocial treatment methods are not necessary for all buprenorphine patients.