Few on Medicare receive medication overdose treatment: NIH

Few Medicare beneficiaries are receiving medication treatment after experiencing a non-fatal drug overdose, a study from the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies found. 

The study, published June 17 in JAMA Internal Medicine, examined a cohort of 137,000 Medicare beneficiaries who experienced a non-fatal overdose in 2020. Of those who experienced an overdose, around 1 in 5 had another nonfatal overdose in the following year, and 1 in 100 died of an overdose. 

The researchers identified several effective interventions but found that many Medicare beneficiaries did not receive these interventions. Methadone treatment reduced the risk of a subsequent overdose by 58%, and naloxone treatment reduced the risk by 75%. However, only 4.1% of beneficiaries who experienced a non-fatal overdose received these treatments. 

The study also identified large gaps in time between an overdose and treatment. Beneficiaries who received medication treatment waited an average of 72 days between experiencing an overdose and receiving medication. 

Behavioral health assessments and crisis services reduced the rates of subsequent overdoses by 75%. Around 9 in 10 beneficiaries in the study cohort received behavioral health services after experiencing an overdose. 

Dora Hughes, MD, acting chief medical officer and acting director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality for CMS, said in a June 17 news release that increasing the number of people receiving medication treatment for opioid use will save lives.  

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