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A population-based time-series analysis of opioid agonist treatment dispensed during pregnancy


Background and Aims — Identifying effective opioid treatment options during pregnancy is a high priority due to the growing prevalence of opioid use disorder across North America. We assessed the temporal impact of three population-level interventions on the use of opioid agonist treatment (OAT) during pregnancy in Ontario, Canada.

Design — This was a population-based time-series analysis to identify trends in the monthly prevalence of pregnant people dispensed methadone and buprenorphine. The impact of adding buprenorphine/naloxone to the public drug formulary, the release of pregnancy-specific guidance and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic were assessed.

Setting and Participants — The study was conducted in Ontario, Canada between 1 July 2013 and 31 March 2022, comprising people who delivered a live or stillbirth in any Ontario hospital during the study period.

Measurements — We identified any prescription for methadone or buprenorphine dispensed between the estimated conception date and delivery date and calculated the monthly prevalence of OAT-exposed pregnancies among all pregnant people in Ontario.

Findings — Overall, rates of OAT during pregnancy have declined since mid-2018. Methadone-exposed pregnancies decreased from 0.46% of all pregnancies in Ontario in 2015 to a low of 0.16% in 2022. In the primary analysis, none of the interventions had a statistically significant impact on overall OAT rates; however, in the stratified analyses, there was a small increase in buprenorphine after the formulary change [0.006%, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.0032−0.0081, P < 0.0001] and a decrease in buprenorphine after the release of the 2017 guidelines (−0.005%, 95% CI = −0.0080 to −0.0020, P = 0.001) and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (−0.003%, 95% CI = −0.0054 to −0.0006, P = 0.015).

Conclusion — Despite changes in guidance and funding, opioid agonist treatment during pregnancy has been declining in Ontario, Canada since 2018.



Schmidt RA, Everett K, Perez-Brumer A, Strike C, Rush B, Gomes T. Addiction. 2024; Mar 13 [Epub ahead of print].

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