University of Wisconsin–Madison

The business case for buprenorphine

Presenting information about the cost-effectiveness of medication can help secure buy-in from administrators and others who question whether offering buprenorphine treatment makes business sense for the organization:

  • Methadone and buprenorphine treatment episodes have been associated with $223 to $153 lower total health care expenditures per month than other non-medication behavioral health treatment episodes, most likely because patients are less than one half as likely to relapse when treated with methadone or buprenorphine than if they receive treatment without medication. 1
  • Some health plans offer preferred vendor status to addiction treatment centers that provide medication-assisted treatment.2
  • A randomized trial found that buprenorphine treatment initiated in emergency departments was more cost-effective than brief intervention or referral to treatment.3

“Clients did not stay in treatment before we offered this service. We worked twice as hard for half the revenue and had worse outcomes. With MAT, you feel like you have effective tools at your side.” –Staff member, Addiction Resource Center, Maine


Page updated: 09/17/2020




1 Clark, R. E., Baxter, J. D., Aweh, G., O’Connell, E., Fisher, W. H., & Barton, B. A. (2015). Risk factors for relapse and higher costs among Medicaid members with opioid dependence or abuse: opioid agonists, comorbidities, and treatment history. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 57, 75-80.

2 McCarty, Dennis. A Business Case for Including Medication in Treatment Plans: Toward a 21st Century System of Care for Alcohol and Drug Disorders.  The Bridge, 4:3

2 Busch, S. H., Fiellin, D. A., Chawarski, M. C., Owens, P. H., Pantalon, M. V., Hawk, K., … & D’Onofrio, G. (2017). Cost‐effectiveness of emergency department‐initiated treatment for opioid dependence. Addiction, 112(11), 2002-2010.

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