Study to Assess State Policies Governing Opioid Use and Pregnancy

September 25, 2019

Information gleaned will be crucial to providers, insurers, and policy makers.

A Penn State researcher and his team will receive almost $1.2 million over three years from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to examine the effects of state policies on pregnant women with opioid use disorder (OUD) and their infants.

According to project principal researcher Doug Leslie, director of the Center for Applied Studies in Health Economics and professor of public health sciences and psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine, state responses regarding treatment of OUD in pregnancy vary widely, yet evidenced-based data about what specific public health strategies result in the best outcomes for these mothers and their infants are limited.

Leslie, also an affiliate faculty member of Penn State's Consortium to Combat Substance Abuse and the Clinical and Translational Research Institute, will examine the effects and costs of state policies governing the treatment of pregnant women with OUD.

Related: The Link Between Opioid Overdose And Household Prescriptions

“It is our goal to understand how states react to pregnant women who were using opioids,” Leslie says. “Some states treat these women as in acute need, while other states treat them like criminals. We want to inform state policies to improve maternal and infant outcomes.”

Leslie and his research team will study two insurance claims databases that include both publicly and privately insured individuals. By using data from the MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters and the Medicaid Analytic eXtract (MAX) files, the study will provide a comprehensive assessment of the effects of these policies on maternal and neonatal outcomes in pregnant women with OUD.

“The information we generate from the study will be crucial to providers, insurers, and policymakers as they design treatment processes and policies to provide adequate care to these women and their infants,” Leslie says.