Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant Interest in Prescribing Buprenorphine

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants play important roles in the care of patients with HIV. This study reveals their strong interest in prescribing buprenorphine—a treatment for opioid addicts—to HIV patients who suffer from substance abuse.

Many HIV-infected patients are drug users. The recent approval of buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid dependence places primary care providers in a unique position to combine HIV and drug addiction treatment, which may improve outcomes for both conditions. This study considers the interest of nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs)—many of whom are the providers of HIV care—in delivering treatment for drug addiction to the same patients.

Questionnaires were distributed to physicians, NPs and PAs attending six HIV clinical education conferences. Almost 50 percent of the attendees at the six conferences responded to the survey.

Key Findings:

  • Of the 625 respondents, 206 providers reported an interest in prescribing buprenorphine.
  • Of these, 27.2 percent were infectious disease specialists, 39 percent were generalist physicians and 48.7 percent were nonphysicians.

These results suggest that NPs and PAs are interested in expanding their role to treating opioid dependence. Currently, buprenorphine is one of the few medications that only physicians can prescribe, although the rationale behind this policy is not clear. The authors conclude that the implications of allowing NPs and PAs to prescribe the drug should be explored given the low numbers of opioid-dependent patients who receive treatment.