Examining the cost and impact of dosing fees among clients in opioid agonist treatment: Results from a cross-sectional survey of Australian treatment clients
Drug and Alcohol Review
Introduction: Opioid agonist treatment (OAT) clients frequently bear costs associated with their treatment, including dosing fees. This study aimed to explore the financial and social impact of dosing fees upon clients. Methods: Cross-sectional survey of people who use opioids regularly (N = 402) between December 2017 and March 2018, conducted in Australia. Dosing fees were calculated and expressed as percentage of income, by OAT type. Consequences and strategies for difficulties making payments were examined as proportions. Results: A total of N = 360 participants had ever been in OAT and N = 245 participants currently engaged in OAT reported data on dosing fees, of them 53% (n = 129) reported paying dosing fees. Compared to clients with high levels of dosing supervision, those with moderate or low levels of supervision were more likely to pay dosing fees. The median 28-day dosing fee was AUD$110 (interquartile range AUD$80); median 28-day income was AUD$1520 (interquartile range AUD$700). For those who paid dosing fees, the fee comprised <10% of total monthly income for 70% of participants; however, 23% of participants paid fees comprising 10% to <20%, and 7% of participants paid fees comprising 20% or more of monthly income. Among those that had ever been in OAT, 72% experienced difficulties in paying treatment costs; 36% left treatment earlier than intended and 25% had been excluded due to payment difficulties. Discussion and Conclusions: Negative consequences of treatment costs to clients, particularly dosing fees, are evident. These costs impact treatment access and retention that may negatively impact clients' physical health, mental health and social wellbeing.
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National Institutes of Health