Removal of Prior Authorization for Medication-Assisted Treatment: Impact on Opioid Use and Policy Implications in a Medicare Advantage Population.
- May 27, 2021
- 2 min read
- Erin Ferries, PhD, MPH; Patrick Racsa, MPH; Brock Bizzell, PharmD, MBA; Clay Rhodes, PharmD, MBA; Brandon Suehs , PharmD, PhD
The objective of this analysis was to study the impact of the removal of prior authorization requirements for MAT medications on MAT utilization, opioid utilization, and clinical outcomes, including emergency department visits, inpatient admission, relapse rates, behavioral health services, and nonopioid pain medication utilization, among opioid-using individuals with Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug (MAPD) coverage. This retrospective, cross-sectional study used administrative medical, pharmacy, and enrollment data to identify chronic opioid users and a subset cohort initiating MAT use in 2017, when prior authorization requirements were in effect, and 2018 after removal of prior authorization requirements. Opioid and MAT utilization and clinical outcomes from emergency department visits were also examined before and after prior authorization requirements. A logistic regression analysis was conducted to examine the impact of the policy change on relapse rates, comparing relapse rates in 2017 and 2018, after controlling for potentially confounding demographic and clinical factors.
This policy change was followed by a decrease in opioid utilization, an increase in MAT initiation, and a 4% decline in relapse rates. Patients initiating MAT after removal of prior authorizations had a 19% decrease in likelihood of relapse, and those with an OUD diagnosis were 47% less likely to relapse. The majority of MAT recipients were aged younger than 65 years, had a mental or behavioral health disorder diagnosis, and initially used relatively low doses (< 90 MME) of prescription opioids. There were no statistically significant differences in the use of behavioral health services or the use of nonopioid medications from 2017 to 2018. Utilization management policies should ensure appropriate MAT use, while minimizing impediments to access. Providing patients with evidence-based therapy effective for the treatment of OUD is essential to patient recovery and combating the consequences of the opioid epidemic. Further strides are needed to eliminate additional obstacles to OUD care.