Far too few people are getting the benefit of Medication-Assisted Treatment in America, even though the FDA considers it the gold standard for people with opioid use disorder. While stigma still creates barriers within the medical system, pharmacists may play a unique role in helping access life-changing medications such as Suboxone, also known as buprenorphine. These drugs can help provide opioid users stability early in recovery and help them avoid withdrawal and intense cravings.

Research Shows Pharmacists Can Fill a Gap

Research shows the impact of a new Rhode Island law allowing pharmacists to prescribe Suboxone to people with opioid use disorder. Compliance with follow-up care and continued treatment was vastly superior to in-person clinics.

The pharmacists in the program applied for the ability to provide addiction care and were chosen randomly.

One hundred patients received the medication initially at a pharmacy rather than the traditional doctor’s office—the people who were allowed to do this and were compliant got stabilized. Fifty-eight were chosen to continue their treatment at a clinic or pharmacy.

The study showed much higher medication compliance and sobriety level among the patients treated at a pharmacy. After just a month, 89% were still enrolled in the pharmacy program. Only 17% of the people getting their treatment at a doctor’s office or clinic even showed up the second month.

Pharmacies are convenient and perhaps less stigmatizing than a doctor’s office or drug rehab clinic. The pharmacy may charge less for people with transportation issues or inadequate healthcare.

“We have a serious treatment gap. We are missing 90% of the people with opioid use disorder who need and want treatment,” said study co-author Jeffrey Bratberg from the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy in Kingston. “Pharmacists are an underutilized partner in the health care workforce, especially the behavioral health care workforce. There is a pharmacy within five miles of where 95% of Americans live.

MAT Truly Saves Lives

Medication-Assisted Treatment truly saves lives in communities, reduces overdoses, and even helps stave off crime. Unfortunately, nearly 65% of people involved in the justice system also have an addiction to substances.

Fentanyl has killed over 100,000 Americans in the last year. Many of these people thought they were taking pure Oxycontin, heroin, or other drugs but ended up overdosing on a drug that’s 50-100 times as strong as morphine.