Cost, Lack of Insurance Coverage, Anti-Medication Bias Limit Scripts of Naltrexone for Alcoholism

Naltrexone for Alcoholism: Factors influencing the use of a new pharmacotherapy
    • December 9, 2005

Between August 1999 and October 2001, Richard A. Rawson, PhD, and researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles evaluated the reasons why naltrexone (a medication-based treatment for alcohol abuse and dependence and opiate addiction) is not widely used by physicians and practitioners.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP).

Key Findings

  • Although the number of prescriptions for naltrexone increased from 75,000 in 1996 to 160,000 in 1999, naltrexone is still widely underused as a treatment.
  • Coverage of naltrexone by California insurers is limited and mostly restricted by the need for prior authorization.
  • Substance abuse treatment providers ranked lack of knowledge about medication as the most important reason they did not use naltrexone, followed by anti-medication beliefs, side effects, cost and regulations.
  • Physicians ranked cost of the medication as the most important reason they did not recommend naltrexone, followed by side effects, anti-medication beliefs, lack of knowledge and regulations.