A cross-national evaluation of opioid dependence treatment service systems in Canada and the United States

Methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) is the most effective form of treatment for opioid dependence, a chronic, recurrent disease. However, the availability and means by which MMT is delivered varies greatly, both locally and internationally. Understandably, the resulting accessibility, quality and comprehensiveness of care provided through the various treatment practices have important public health implications, and require careful consideration. Notably, there are vast differences between the drug treatment systems in California and British Columbia. Treatment for opioid dependence remains restricted in California due to regulatory constraints on treatment settings, (i.e. registered drug treatment centres), and physician practice, (i.e. limits on the number of patients per physician). Nonetheless, treatment through drug treatment centres may offer some advantages. In comparison, access to MMT in BC has improved following administrative transfer from the federal government to provincial colleges of physicians and subsequent deregulation through the introduction of community-based treatment (i.e. office-based prescription and dispensation in community-based pharmacies). Community-based treatment may maximize access, albeit at a relatively high cost, although the economic merits of maximizing access are well-established. Building on his earlier research in this area, Mr. Nosyk is working to identify differences in patient characteristics, treatment outcomes and costs of opioid dependence treatment systems in both the countries, with a specific focus on the performance of the treatment systems in terms of effectiveness, efficiency and equity. The knowledge gained from his research can be extended to estimate the health and economic impact of introducing treatment services at the population-level, and corresponds with long-term recommendations to expand services to provide more comprehensive treatment for substance users in BC.