Health Services Research & Development

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Mellinger JL, Fernandez A, Shedden K, Winder GS, Fontana RJ, Volk ML, Blow FC, Lok ASF. Gender Disparities in Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment Among Privately Insured Patients with Alcohol-Associated Cirrhosis. Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research. 2019 Feb 1; 43(2):334-341.
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Abstract: BACKGROUND: The burden of alcohol-associated cirrhosis (AC) is high, and though alcohol cessation improves mortality, many patients fail to engage in alcohol use disorder (AUD) treatment and continue drinking. Our aim was to determine rates, predictors, and outcomes of AUD treatment utilization in AC patients with private insurance. METHODS: We collected data from persons with AC (diagnosed by ICD-9/ICD-10 codes), aged 18 to 64 years, enrolled in the Truven MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters database (2009 to 2016). We determined rates and predictors of substance abuse treatment visits as well as rates of alcohol relapse prevention medication prescriptions, weighted to the national employer-sponsored insured population. Effects of AUD treatment utilization on decompensation rates were calculated using proportional hazards regression with propensity score adjustment. RESULTS: A total of 66,053 AC patients were identified, 32% were female, and mean age at diagnosis was 54.5 years. About 72% had insurance coverage for substance abuse treatment. Overall, AUD treatment utilization rates were low, with only 10% receiving a face-to-face mental health or substance abuse visit and only 0.8% receiving a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved relapse prevention medication within 1 year of index diagnosis. Women were less likely to receive a face-to-face visit (hazard ratio [HR] 0.84, p < 0.001) or an FDA-approved relapse prevention medication (0.89, p = 0.05) than men. AC patients who had a clinic visit for AUD treatment or used FDA-approved relapse medication showed decreased risk of decompensation at 1 year (HR 0.85, p < 0.001 for either). CONCLUSIONS: AUD treatment utilization is associated with lower decompensation rates among privately insured patients with AC. Women were less likely to utilize AUD treatment visits. Efforts to reduce gender-specific barriers to treatment are urgently needed to improve outcomes.