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Opioid-related drug overdoses have been rapidly increasing in the United States, especially in rural Southern and Appalachian regions. The use of buprenorphine-containing medications to treat opioid use disorder (OUD) is an evidence-based approach proven to reduce overdose death risks. Access to such treatment is uneven, with less access in parts of the United States where overdose rates are higher. Pharmacy dispensing of buprenorphine is a key component of access, yet barriers related to perceived and actual regulatory constraints, training gaps, stigma, and challenges to prescriber-pharmacist communication limit dispensing of this life-saving medication. The objectives of this study were to explore the experiences of rural patients with OUD filling prescriptions for buprenorphine-containing medications at community pharmacies. Rural community pharmacies, both commercial chain and independent, in 2 rural South-Central Appalachian counties where the local health departments prescribe buprenorphine-containing medications. The local county health departments each entered into dedicated dispensing arrangements with a local independent community pharmacy to ensure a stable supply of medication for their patients with OUD who were prescribed buprenorphine. Qualitative interviews (n =16) with patients prescribed buprenorphine from their county health department; county health department staff, local harm reduction program staff, and harm reduction program participants prescribed buprenorphine. Transcripts were analyzed using thematic analysis. Participants reported problems with buprenorphine dispensing at rural community pharmacies, dispensing delays that resulted in experiencing withdrawal symptoms and hesitation to continue in treatment, high medication costs, and stigmatizing treatment by some pharmacists. Participants also reported that access improved after dedicated dispensing arrangements began. Agreements between prescribing health departments and community pharmacies could increase access to buprenorphine, especially in rural areas. Copyright Ā© 2022 American Pharmacists AssociationĀ®. All rights reserved.


Bayla Ostrach, Rachel Potter, Courtenay Gilmore Wilson, Delesha Carpenter. Ensuring buprenorphine access in rural community pharmacies to prevent overdoses. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association : JAPhA. 2022 Mar-Apr;62(2):588-597.e2

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PMID: 34674965

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