Informing Evidence-Based Medicine for Opioid Use Disorder Using Pharmacoeconomic Studies

Since 2021, over 100,000 individuals have died each year from a drug overdose, with approximately 76 percent of those deaths involving opioids. As the US health care system contends with this growing health crisis, improved access to evidence-based medication treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) is imperative. Pharmacoeconomics, a branch of health economics used to evaluate comparative clinical, person-centered, and economic outcomes of medical interventions, can aid in both the health care decisions and policymaking pertinent to this crisis. 

In a review published in the Expert Review of Pharmacoeconomics & Outcomes Research, Dr. Ali Jalali, assistant professor of population health sciences, defines the scope and discusses the role of pharmacoeconomics in informing treatment of OUD. He synthesizes the evidence and limitations of previous studies and explores future research opportunities that can advance the real-world application of pharmacoeconomic analysis in addressing the opioid epidemic. 

“I wanted to write a paper that would have been useful for when I started my career,” said Dr. Jalali. “There is a lot of work to be done [in pharmacoeconomics], and there are many shared research opportunities being supported by the National Institutes of Health. 

The article provides a comprehensive introduction to evidence-based OUD medications, formulations, delivery methods, and the most promising health care settings and linkage strategies for initiating treatment among high-risk OUD subpopulations 

Dr. Jalali emphasizes that continued investment by federal agencies supporting pharmacoeconomic research conducted alongside or in conjunction with clinical trials is critical. It’s an invaluable resource for pharmacoeconomists,” he explained. “Participant-level health economic data from clinical trials allow us to make causal conclusions that can inform real-world medical decisions."  

He further advocates for federal agencies to support proposals focused on pharmacoeconomic research methods. Overlapping data and econometric issues arise when conducting pharmacoeconomic analysis of OUD interventions. When we try to address these issues simultaneously, statistical analysis becomes complicated,” said Dr. Jalali. He posits the development of ‘pharmacoeconometrics’ as a new empirical field to help mitigate these challenges.  

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