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Leveraging black-market street buprenorphine pricing to increase capacity to treat opioid addiction, 2010-2018.

Abstract

Increasing capacity to provide buprenorphine, a treatment for opioid addiction, can help mitigate the opioid epidemic in the United States. This study models black-market pricing of buprenorphine to better understand supply and demand for opioid addiction treatment. A mixed effects linear model was used to quantify the effect of county-level racial composition, health insurance coverage, and drug characteristics on price variation. From November 2010 to June 2018, there were 2481 submissions for street buprenorphine transactions in the StreetRx dataset. The mean price was $3.95/mg (SD = $23.12/mg). Price decreased 3.05% each year and was highest in the summer and spring. Brand name buprenorphine was on average 11.18% more expensive than generic buprenorphine. Buprenorphine/naloxone combinations were on average 19.75% less expensive than pure buprenorphine. Purchases in bulk were on average 10.51% cheaper than purchases not in bulk. Street buprenorphine in film form was on average 14.34% more expensive than in pill/tablet form. Buprenorphine street price was 17.12% higher in spring and 22.26% higher in summer compared to fall. For every percentage point increase in percent white, buprenorphine sold for 0.88% higher price. For every percentage point increase in health insurance coverage, street buprenorphine sold for 0.02% lower price. Findings demonstrate that geographic, demographic, and socioeconomic factors shape the diversion of opioid addiction treatment to the black-market. Buprenorphine street pricing can help estimate public need, gaps in care and emerging public health priorities.

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