Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis




Pharmaceutical Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Patricia Freeman


Opioid use disorder (OUD) and opioid overdose are pervasive public health problems in the U.S. Medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) have been shown effective to reduce OUD morbidity and mortality. Two distinct approaches to MOUD are currently used: agonist therapy (methadone or buprenorphine) or antagonist therapy (naltrexone). Limited information is available about the patterns of use, adherence to therapy, and characteristics of those who use agonist vs. antagonist therapy. The objective of this study is to assess recent trends in MOUD, adherence in use of MOUD, and the characteristics of those who use agonist vs. antagonist therapy in a nationally representative population of commercially insured patients in the U.S.

This retrospective descriptive study utilized data from Truven Marketscan Commercial Claims and Encounters database from years 2011 to 2016. All individuals aged 18 years and older who have a diagnosis of OUD and utilize MOUD at any point during the study period were included. Demographic characteristics of interest included age, gender, geographic region, and type of insurance coverage. Clinical characteristics of interest included diagnosis of OUD and type of MOUD used, including extended – release naltrexone for injection, oral naltrexone, buprenorphine in combination with naloxone, and buprenorphine alone. Descriptive analyses were employed to understand utilization patterns and trends over time and proportion of days covered was used to measure adherence. Frequency and percentage are presented for categorical variables. Adherence of MOUD will be estimated by measuring proportion of days covered. As this study uses de-identified commercial health claims data, it has been determined as not human subjects research by the University of Kentucky’s Office of Research Integrity.

Agonist therapy with buprenorphine or buprenorphine/naloxone was the most common treatment, representing 75.7% of those receiving treatment. Between 2011 and 2016, the percentage of individuals receiving treatment with partial agonist therapy decreased 16.5% to 9.2%, respectively. Meanwhile, the percentage of individuals receiving treatment with antagonist treatment increased from 0.1% in 2011 to 0.3% in 2016. In the analysis of proportion of days covered, all MOUD reported a decrease at both 180 and 365 days. In the commercial population, younger female patients were more likely to be treated with injectable naltrexone. Specifically, in the North Central geographic region, commercial adult patients were more likely to be treated with buprenorphine monotherapy.

Overall, this study found a decrease in use of agonist therapy from 2011 through 2016, with an increase in use of antagonist therapy in the same time period. However, the increase in use of antagonist therapy does not fully account for the decrease in use of agonist therapy, suggesting that since 2011 many patients with OUD still remain untreated. All MOUD types were analyzed and saw a decrease in proportion of days covered, as a measure of adherence, from 2011 to 2016 putting patients at an increased risk for relapse, further complications, emergency visits, and hospitalizations. More information is needed about characteristics of patients who not only seek out treatment for OUD, but also maintain their treatment overtime.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)