PORTLAND, Maine — A researcher at the University of Southern Maine and researchers from 10 other universities have found that most Medicaid enrollees initiating treatment for opioid use disorder are not getting screened for HIV, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C — infectious diseases that are associated with injection drug use and opioid use disorder.
The study looked at data for more than 361,000 Medicaid enrollees 12 to 64 years old in 11 states. The data were gathered for 2016 to 2019.
It found that Medicaid enrollees initiating treatment for opioid use disorder were more likely to get screened for infectious diseases, including HIV and hepatitis C and B, in 2019 than in 2016. However, the researchers found that approximately three-quarters of enrollees still were not screened, and screening rates were lower if enrollees were male, living in rural areas, or being treated with methadone or naltrexone rather than buprenorphine (e.g. Suboxone).
“This research is important because it shows most Medicaid enrollees initiating treatment for their opioid use disorder are not being screened for infectious diseases that are associated with injection drug use,” said Dr. Katherine Ahrens Assistant Research Professor of Public Health in the Muskie School of Public Service. “This research highlights there is room for improvement in meeting screening recommendations and missed opportunities for curing hepatitis C, managing hepatitis B and HIV, and reducing transmission of these viruses.”
This research will appear in an upcoming issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases in a paper authored by Ahrens and her colleagues. It was published online today through Oxford Academic. The paper’s senior author is Dr. Julie Donohue, Professor and Chair of Health Policy and Management at the University of Pittsburgh.
The research was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
This work is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), under award number R01DA048029. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.
About the University of Southern Maine: Situated in Maine’s economic and cultural center, the University of Southern Maine (USM) is a public university with 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students taking courses online and at campuses in Portland, Gorham and Lewiston-Auburn. Known for its academic excellence, student focus and engagement with the community, USM provides students with hands-on experience that complements classroom learning and leads to employment opportunities in one of the nation’s most desirable places to live.
Media contact: Lindsay Tice, USM Public Affairs Associate, firstname.lastname@example.org, (cell) 207-838-8087.