Original Article

Provision of Buprenorphine to Pregnant Women by For-Profit Clinics in an Appalachian City

Authors: Jessica J. Walker, MD, Martin E. Olsen, MD


Objectives: This study was undertaken to confirm that patient reports on buprenorphine medication-assisted therapy in for-profit buprenorphine clinics in our community were personally costly. We contacted all 17 for-profit clinics in our community and confirmed the patient reports that a significant financial payment of ≤$100 was required for each visit. We also found that tapering of buprenorphine dosage in pregnancy was offered by several of the clinics.

Methods: A telephone survey was conducted with the 17 for-profit buprenorphine clinics located in the Johnson City, Tennessee area. The clinic representative who answered the telephone was asked questions regarding patient costs for therapy and availability of tapering programs for pregnant women.

Results: Patient reports that the for-profit clinics are costly were confirmed. None of the clinics accepted insurance reimbursement of any type. The most common weekly costs were $100 per visit. A majority of clinics offered biweekly or monthly visits at significantly increased rates. Clinic representatives stated that a majority of clinics would consider buprenorphine tapering programs for pregnant women.

Conclusions: The high cost of for-profit clinics is a barrier for patient access to medication-assisted therapy with buprenorphine. Tapering of buprenorphine dosage in pregnant women has penetrated buprenorphine management practice in our community. Further research is needed to determine whether elimination of cost barrier would have a positive effect on the rates of neonatal abstinence syndrome.

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