Dialing in on years 2018-2021, Chapman University faculty have begun to bridge the data gap in understanding data trends on how buprenorphine was prescribed to both insured and uninsured patients in California. Contrary to past findings that relied on data to insured patients, the study “Real-World Dispensing of Buprenorphine in California during Prepandemic and Pandemic Periods” by Dr. Yun “Sherry” Wang, Dr. Marc Fleming, and Dr. Richard Beuttler alongside other institutions found concrete reasons for policy adjustments in the state to improve patient safety as it pertains to the opioid crisis. This piece of work was funded by Dr. Wang’s 2023 American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy New Investigator Award.

The 33-month study in California revealed an unexpected outcome: despite pandemic challenges, there was no significant decrease in buprenorphine prescriptions or patient numbers. This suggests that efforts to maintain access to this crucial medication for individuals with opioid use disorder were somewhat successful in California during the pandemic.

Beyond prescription numbers, the study identified a disruption in the upward trend of healthcare providers prescribing buprenorphine during the pandemic, indicating a hindrance in the expansion of professionals addressing opioid addiction. Additionally, there was an immediate post-pandemic increase in the days’ supply per prescription, signaling a potential adjustment in prescription practices. These findings emphasize the need for a nuanced understanding of COVID-19’s impact on buprenorphine access and stress the critical importance of adapting policies to ensure uninterrupted delivery of essential medications for those dealing with opioid use disorder. In the context of the nation’s ongoing struggle with the opioid crisis and pandemic challenges, this research provides vital insights that can inform targeted policy adjustments for improved care and support.