Preventing Opioid Relapse: Cost-Effectiveness of Buprenorphine–Naloxone vs Extended-Release Naltrexone Interview with:

Sean M. Murphy, PhD Associate Professor of Research Director, CHERISH Consultation Service  Weill Cornell Medicine Department of Healthcare Policy & Research New York, NY 10065-8722

Dr. Murphy

Sean M. Murphy, PhD
Associate Professor of Research
Director, CHERISH Consultation Service
Weill Cornell Medicine
Department of Healthcare Policy & Research
New York, NY 10065-8722 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: A recent eight-site US randomized effectiveness trial compared buprenorphine-naloxone to extended-release naltrexone to prevent opioid-use relapse. Participants were recruited from inpatient detoxification or short-term residential treatment programs.

Current treatment protocols require persons initiating extended-release naltrexone, but not buprenorphine-naloxone, be fully detoxified from opioids. Both medications were effective at treating opioid use disorder with regard to time abstinent from opioid use and health-related quality-of-life; however, the higher cost of extended-release naltrexone and additional costs associated with detoxification prior to administering this medication, resulted in buprenorphine-naloxone being the better value to the healthcare sector, among patients who require detoxification before initiating extended-release naltrexone.

The economic value of extended-release naltrexone, compared to buprenorphine-naloxone, became more attractive after accounting for additional costs to society (participant time and travel, criminal activity, workforce productivity), and among persons who were successfully initiated on treatment. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Because the economic value of extended-release naltrexone compared to buprenorphine-naloxone increased among persons who were successfully initiated on treatment, identifying persons who are most likely to achieve superior outcomes on extended-release naltrexone in advance would be a preferred to offering this medication to everyone. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: Narrowing the cost gap by identifying the best possible patients for each medication, lowering the cost of extended-release naltrexone, and shortening or eliminating the induction period could improve its relative economic value, thereby increasing its attractiveness to payers and allowing more people to access either alternative according to their clinical needs and preferences.

Thus, I would really like to see additional research on treatment models that could achieve these objectives. I am also eager to see comparative effectiveness and economic evaluations of extended-release naltrexone compared to extended-release buprenorphine products. 


Murphy SM, McCollister KE, Leff JA, Yang X, Jeng PJ, Lee JD, et al. Cost-Effectiveness of Buprenorphine–Naloxone Versus Extended-Release Naltrexone to Prevent Opioid Relapse. Ann Intern Med. [Epub ahead of print ] doi: 10.7326/M18-0227


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