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COVID-19; epidemiology; health services accessibility; rehabilitation medicine; substance misuse


Objectives: Opioid use disorder (OUD) is a major public health concern in the USA, resulting in high rates of overdose and other negative outcomes. Methadone, an OUD treatment, has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of overdose and improving overall health and quality of life. This study analysed the distribution of methadone for the treatment of OUD across the USA over the past decade and through the COVID-19 pandemic. Design: Retrospective observational study using secondary data analysis of the Drug Enforcement Administration and Medicaid Databases. Setting: USA. Participants: Patients who were dispensed methadone at US opioid treatment programmes (OTPs). Primary and secondary outcome measures: The primary outcomes were the overall pattern in methadone distribution and the number of OTPs in the USA per year. The secondary outcome was Medicaid prescriptions for methadone. Results: Methadone distribution for OUD has expanded significantly over the past decade, with an average state increase of +96.96% from 2010 to 2020. There was a significant increase in overall distribution of methadone to OTP from 2010 to 2020 (+61.00%, p<0.001) and from 2015 to 2020 (+26.22%, p<0.001). However, the distribution to OTPs did not significantly change from 2019 to 2021 (-5.15%, p=0.491). There was considerable state-level variation in methadone prescribing to Medicaid patients with four states having no prescriptions. Conclusions: There have been dynamic changes in methadone distribution for OUD. Furthermore, pronounced variation in methadone distribution among states was observed, with some states having no OTPs or Medicaid coverage. New policies are urgently needed to increase access to methadone treatment, address the opioid epidemic in the USA and reduce overdose deaths.


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© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2023. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ. is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License