The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported between 1999 and 2017, the rate of drug overdose deaths increased by more than three-fold, and 68% of the 70,237 drug overdose deaths in 2017 were attributed to either prescription or illicit opioids. The total economic burden of the opioid abuse was estimated to be closer to $504 billion in 2015 after accounting for the value of the drug-related mortalities. Despite the value provided by Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) as an evidence-based treatment for Opioid Use Disorder (OUD), there are significant coverage and access barriers for patients in accessing this form of treatment.

This analysis sought to project the burden of OUD and estimate the impact of expanding adoption of MAT over the next 15 years in lowering opioid-related overdose, mortality and medical expenses among the commercially insured in the US. Using a published and validated microsimulation model, we predicted the annual number of overdose, mortality, and direct medical costs associated with opioid abuse will increase by more than 10-fold over the next 15 years if current trend continues. By improving access to MAT over the same time frame, there is potential to avoid up to 6.1 million overdoses and save as many as 805,000 lives over the next 15 years. By avoiding the costs associated with increased overdoses, the healthcare system could save up to $645 billion over the next 15 years.

Our study findings suggest improving access to MAT can generate significant health, economic, and social benefits, particularly when implemented in combination with other policies aiming at the prevention of opioid abuse.

Additional details are available in the complete report. This research is supported by funding from Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).