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Racialized and beneficiary inequities in medication to treat opioid use disorder receipt within the US Military Health System.

BACKGROUND: Medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) can be critical to managing opioid use disorder (OUD). It is unknown the extent to which US Military Health System (MHS) patients diagnosed with OUD receive MOUD.

METHODS: Healthcare records of MHS-enrolled active duty and retired service members (N = 13,334) with a new (index) OUD diagnosis were included between 2018 and 2021, without 90-day pre-index MOUD receipt were included. Elastic net logistic and Cox regressions evaluated care- and system-level factors associated with 1-year MOUD receipt (primary outcome) and time-to-receipt.

RESULTS: Only 9% of patients received MOUD 1-year post-index; only 4% received MOUD within 14 days. Black patients (OR for receipt 0.38, 95% CI 0.30-0.49), Latinx patients (OR for receipt 0.44, 95% CI 0.33-0.59), and patients whose race and ethnicity was Other (OR for receipt 0.52, 95%CI 0.35, 0.77) experienced lower MOUD access (all p < 0.001). Retirees were more likely to receive MOUD relative to active duty service members (OR for receipt 1.81, 95%CI 1.52, 2.16, p <0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: Institutional racism in MOUD prescribing, combined with the overall low rates of MOUD receipt after OUD diagnosis, highlight the need for evidence-based, multifaceted, and multilevel approaches to OUD care in the Military Health System. Without clear Defense Health Agency policy, including the designation of responsible entities, transparent and ongoing evaluation and responsiveness using standardized methodology, and resourced programming and public health campaigns, MOUD rates will likely remain poor and inequitable.

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