The Association Between Scope of Practice Regulations and Nurse Practitioner Prescribing of Buprenorphine After the 2016 Opioid Bill


Thuy Nguyen, Ulrike Muench, Barbara Andraka-Christou, Kosali Simon, W. David Bradford, and Joanne Spetz

April 1, 2021

This article examines the relationship between federal regulations, state scope-of-practice regulations on nurse practitioners (NPs), and buprenorphine prescribing patterns using pharmacy claims data from Optum’s deidentified Clinformatics Data Mart between January 2015 and September 2018. The county-level proportion of patients filling prescriptions written by NPs was low even after the 2016 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), 2.7% in states that did not require physician oversight of NPs, and 1.1% in states that did. While analyses in rural counties showed higher rates of buprenorphine prescriptions written by NPs, rates were still considerably low: 3.7% in states with less restrictive regulations and 1.1% in other states. These results indicate that less restrictive scope-of-practice regulations are associated with greater NP prescribing following CARA. The small magnitude of the changes indicates that federal attempts to expand treatment access through CARA have been limited.