UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Inability to contact opioid agonist therapy prescribers during the COVID‑19 pandemic in a Canadian setting : A cross‑sectional analysis among people on opioid agonist therapy Moallef, Soroush; DeBeck, Kora; Fairbairn, Nadia; Cui, Zishan; Brar, Rupinder; Wilson, Dean; Johnson, Cheyenne; Milloy, M-J; Hayashi, Kanna


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic and consequent public health response may have undermined key responses to the protracted drug poisoning crisis, including reduced access to opioid agonist therapy (OAT) among people with opioid use disorder. Our study objectives were to estimate the prevalence of and identify factors associated with inability to contact OAT prescribers when in need among people on OAT in a Canadian setting during the dual public health crises. Methods: Survey data were collected from three prospective cohort studies of community-recruited people who use drugs between July and November 2020, in Vancouver, Canada. A multivariable logistic regression analysis was used to identify potential factors associated with inability to contact OAT prescribers among patients who accessed OAT in the past 6 months. Results: Among 448 respondents who reported accessing OAT in the past 6 months, including 231 (54.9%) men, 85 (19.0%) reported having been unable to contact OAT prescribers when needed, whereas 268 (59.8%) reported being able to talk to their prescriber when needed, and 95 (21.2%) reported that they did not want to talk to their medication prescriber in the previous 6 months. Among those who reported inability to contact prescribers, 45 (53.6%) reported that their overall ability to contact prescribers decreased since the start of the pandemic. In multivariable analyses, factors independently associated with inability to talk to OAT prescribers included: chronic pain (Adjusted Odds Ratio [AOR] = 1.82; 95% Confidence Interval [CI] 1.02, 3.27), moderate to severe symptoms of depression or anxiety (AOR = 4.74; 95% CI 2.30, 9.76), inability to access health/social services (AOR = 2.66; 95% CI 1.41, 5.02), and inability to self-isolate or socially distance most or all of the time (AOR = 2.13; 95% CI 1.10, 4.14). Conclusions: Overall, approximately one fifth of the sample reported inability to contact their OAT prescribers when needed, and those people were more likely to have co-occurring vulnerabilities (i.e., co-morbidities, inability to access health/social services) and higher vulnerability to COVID-19. Interventions are needed to ensure optimal access to OAT and mitigate the deepening health inequities resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the escalating drug poisoning crisis.

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Attribution 4.0 International