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Fatal Drug Overdose Down With OUD-Related Telehealth Services

By Elana Gotkine HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, March 29, 2023 -- Receipt of opioid use disorder (OUD)-related telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with a reduced risk for fatal drug overdose, according to a study published online March 29 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Christopher M. Jones, Pharm.D., Dr.P.H., from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues examined the association of receipt of telehealth services and medications for OUD (MOUD) with fatal drug overdoses in two cohorts before (Sept. 1, 2018, to Feb. 29, 2020) and during the pandemic (Sept. 1, 2019, to Feb. 28, 2021; 105,162 and 70,479 beneficiaries, respectively).

The researchers found that compared with the prepandemic cohort, the rate of all-cause mortality was higher in the pandemic cohort (99.9 versus 76.8 per 1,000 beneficiaries). The pandemic cohort had a higher rate of fatal drug overdoses than the prepandemic cohort (5.1 versus 3.7 per 1,000 beneficiaries). The prepandemic and pandemic cohorts had a similar percentage of deaths due to a fatal drug overdose (4.8 and 5.1 percent, respectively). In the pandemic cohort, a significantly lower adjusted odds ratio of fatal drug overdose was seen in association with receipt of OUD-related telehealth (adjusted odds ratio, 0.67) and with receipt of MOUD from opioid treatment programs and receipt of buprenorphine in office-based settings (adjusted odds ratios, 0.41 and 0.62, respectively) compared with those not receiving MOUD.

"Despite encouraging findings associated with telehealth and MOUD, only one in five Medicare beneficiaries in our pandemic cohort received OUD-related telehealth services, and only one in eight received MOUD, underscoring the need for continued expansion of these potentially life-saving interventions across clinical settings," the authors write.

Abstract/Full Text

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