Opioid related overdose among adolescents and young adults in the United States is rising. Medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD), including buprenorphine can reduce the risk of overdose, however they are underutilized. A better understanding of buprenorphine prescribing to youth will help inform interventions to expand access to treatment.


We used IQVIA data to examine buprenorphine dispensing trends among youth aged ≤19 years from 2015 to 2020. Dispensing was examined by prescriber specialty, age, and sex. Data were weighted to provide national estimates.


The rate of buprenorphine dispensed to youth decreased 25% over the study period, from 0.84 to 0.63 prescriptions per 1000 youth per year. The proportion of youth dispensed buprenorphine also decreased 45%, from 7.6 to 4.2 persons per 100 000 per year. Over the same time, the proportion of adults aged ≥20 years dispensed buprenorphine increased 47%, from 378 to 593 persons per 100 000. Differences in dispensing by sex and temporal trends were also noted. Pediatricians accounted for less-than 2% of all prescriptions dispensed.


Buprenorphine dispensing to youth is low and declining in recent years. Given rates of opioid use disorder among youth, these findings suggest that many youth who could benefit from MOUD are not receiving it. Pediatricians could play a role in expanding access to MOUD for this high-risk population. Efforts to expand access to MOUD for adolescents could include improving training in opioid use disorder treatment of pediatricians and encouraging all clinicians who care for adolescents and young adults to obtain waivers to prescribe buprenorphine for MOUD.

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