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      The impact of dispensing fees on compliance with opioid substitution therapy: a mixed methods study

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          Opioid substitution therapy (OST) programs involve the dispensing of OST medicines to patients to address their dependence on heroin and/or other opioid substances. OST medicines are subsidised by the Australian government but patients need to pay the dispensing fees. This study explored opinions from OST patients and stakeholders about the potential impact of dispensing fees on compliance and OST program retention. Current and past experiences and the potential impact of OST dispensing fees were evaluated.


          Mixed methodology was used to obtain data from OST patients and stakeholders. This involved 1) interviews with OST stakeholders, 2) a focus group of OST patients and 3) surveys of OST patients in Perth, Australia, between June and August 2013.


          The majority of the eight stakeholders declared cost as the factor mostly impacting on OST compliance. Almost all of the stakeholders commented that there was a positive correlation between time on the OST program and success in terms of relapse. Most stakeholders advocated for OST fees to contribute towards the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme Safety Net, and for fee subsidy. Focus group themes supported stakeholder interview findings. A total of 138 surveys were completed. Survey analysis illustrated a strong correlation between patient debt and impacted lifestyle: 82.4% (p < 0.001, Chi-square test) of the 138 survey participants stated that dispensing fees impacted significantly on patients’ finances and lifestyle, specifically those patients with major debt. The cost of dispensing fees was identified by 46.3% (64/138) of survey participants as the biggest impacting factor on patient success. Logistic regression models showed that the cost of dispensing fees was also found to significantly influence both the occurrence of debt (57.7%, p < 0.0001) and lifestyle difficulties (80.0%, p = 0.0004).


          Findings provided insight into OST patients’ financial difficulties with data suggesting that dispensing fees are likely to have a negative impact on OST patients’ compliance with therapy, retention in the OST program and lifestyle. Government sponsorship of the OST dispensing fees should be considered as sponsorship would potentially increase the retention rates of income-poor OST program recipients.

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          Most cited references 28

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          The high price of debt: household financial debt and its impact on mental and physical health.

          Household financial debt in America has risen dramatically in recent years. While there is evidence that debt is associated with adverse psychological health, its relationship with other health outcomes is relatively unknown. We investigate the associations of multiple indices of financial debt with psychological and general health outcomes among 8400 young adult respondents from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Our findings show that reporting high financial debt relative to available assets is associated with higher perceived stress and depression, worse self-reported general health, and higher diastolic blood pressure. These associations remain significant when controlling for prior socioeconomic status, psychological and physical health, and other demographic factors. The results suggest that debt is an important socioeconomic determinant of health that should be explored further in social epidemiology research. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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            The characteristics of heroin users entering treatment: findings from the Australian treatment outcome study (ATOS).

            The current study aimed to describe the characteristics (demographics, drug use, mental and physical health) of entrants to treatment for heroin dependence in three treatment modalities; and to compare these characteristics with heroin users not in or seeking treatment. Participants were 825 current heroin users recruited from Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne: 277 entering methadone/buprenorphine maintenance treatment (MT), 288 entering detoxification (DTX), 180 entering drug-free residential rehabilitation (RR) and 80 not in treatment (NT). Treatment entrants were generally long-term heroin users with previous treatment experience. The majority of the sample (55%) were criminally active in the month preceding interview. Injection-related health problems (74%) and a history of heroin overdose (58%) were commonly reported. There were high degrees of psychiatric co-morbidity, with 49% reporting severe psychological distress, 28% having current major depression, 37% having attempted suicide and 42% having a lifetime history of post-traumatic stress disorder. Personality disorders were also prevalent, with 72% meeting criteria for antisocial personality disorder and 47% screening positive for borderline personality disorder. Striking similarities were noted between the non-treatment and treatment groups in length of heroin use career, drug use and treatment histories.
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              Low-cost contingency management for treating cocaine- and opioid-abusing methadone patients.

              This study evaluated the efficacy of a low-cost contingency management (CM) procedure in reducing concurrent cocaine and opioid use among methadone patients. Forty-two patients were randomly assigned to 12 weeks of standard treatment or standard treatment plus CM. CM patients eamed the opportunity to draw from a bowl and win prizes ranging from $1 to $ 100 in value for submitting samples negative for cocaine and opioids. Patients in the CM condition achieved longer durations of continuous abstinence than patients in the standard treatment condition, and these effects were maintained throughout a 6-month follow-up period. On average, patients in the CM condition earned $137 of prizes. These data suggest that this prize reinforcement procedure may be suitable for community-based settings.

                Author and article information

                Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy
                Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy
                Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy
                BioMed Central
                10 August 2014
                : 9
                : 32
                [1 ]Curtin Health, Curtin University, Bentley, Perth, Western Australia 6845, Australia
                Copyright © 2014 Shepherd et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.


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