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Opioid Use Curbed By Team At Infectious Diseases Clinic; Multidisciplinary Plans May Hold Key, Particularly In Rural Areas


  • Researchers at the University of Kentucky developed a multidisciplinary plan to treat those with opioid use disorder in the context of an infectious diseases clinic, according to a study presented at IDWeek.
  • In 2018 the researchers treated 400 people confirmed with endocarditis, of which 73% were injection drug use-associated infections. Study authors sought to design an intervention that addressed addiction.
  • This approach could be adopted by other infectious diseases clinics.

Arlington, Va.—A groundbreaking paper by an interdisciplinary team of specialists at an infectious diseases clinic outlines a medication plan that may be a key to treating those with opioid use disorder, according to research presented at IDWeek 2020.

The study was conducted in Kentucky, which ranks in the top five states in the nation for opioid overdose deaths. The positive results from this treatment approach indicate it may be a model for other states with large rural populations.

“Our intervention is about linking patients with IV drug use associated infections to outpatient addiction treatment services,” says Sarah R. Blevins, PharmD, a pharmacist and the lead on the study, who has also helped treat those with hepatitis C and HIV. 

In 2018 researchers in the University of Kentucky Division of Infectious Diseases treated 400 people confirmed with endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining of the heart chamber and valves), of which 73% were injection drug use-associated infections. To curb overdose deaths, ease financial burden on health care, and improve patient outcomes, the researchers worked with patients who needed tools for recovery from opioid use disorder, such as mental health therapists, relapse-prevention services, and necessary medications.  

“All of this goes back to the addiction problem,” says researcher Alice Thornton, M.D. “We have to step back and see the whole person and the root of the problem.”

Access to opioid use disorder treatment in Kentucky and much of the United States is limited. Poverty, unemployment, and legal issues are barriers, as well as transportation to treatment for those who live in rural areas—an issue that researchers say came up frequently regarding their patients. Limited access to clinics due to COVID-19-related closings has been a challenge to treatment recently.  

The research outlines a comprehensive program by infectious diseases providers for patients who would otherwise be discharged without follow-up for opioid use disorder. The ongoing analysis by the researchers will include longitudinal review of patient progress and outcomes, including hospital readmission, and a study to determine patients’ perceived effect on their quality of life. 

“We have seen some really good success stories beyond just good health outcomes,” says Dr. Blevins. “When we hear about a former patient who has been able to reunite with their family or begin a new career, it’s rewarding.”  

In addition to Dr. Blevins and Dr. Thornton, co-authors of this study are: Tiffany Stivers, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, Kathryn Sabitus, M.S., Ryan Weeks, and J. Zachary Porterfield, M.D., Ph.D.


Contacts: Gavin Stephenson,

About IDWeek

IDWeek 2020TM is the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA), the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society (PIDS) and the Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists (SIDP). With the theme “Advancing Science, Improving Care,” IDWeek features the latest science and bench-to-bedside approaches in prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and epidemiology of infectious diseases, including HIV, across the lifespan. IDWeek 2020 takes place virtually Oct. 21-25. For more information, visit


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