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  1. Bojko MJ, Mazhnaya A, Marcus R, Makarenko I, Islam Z, Filippovych S, et al.
    J Subst Abuse Treat, 2016 07;66:37-47.
    PMID: 27211995 DOI: 10.1016/j.jsat.2016.03.003
    Opioid agonist therapies (OAT) to treat opioid addiction in people who inject drugs (PWID) began in Ukraine in 2004. Scale-up of OAT, however, has been hampered by both low enrollment and high attrition. To better understand the factors influencing OAT retention among PWID in Ukraine, qualitative data from 199 PWIDs were collected during 25 focus groups conducted in five Ukrainian cities from February to April 2013. The experiences of PWID who were currently or previously on OAT or currently trying to access OAT were analyzed to identify entry and retention barriers encountered. Transcribed data were analyzed using a grounded theory approach. Individual beliefs about OAT, particularly misaligned treatment goals between clients and providers, influenced PWID's treatment seeking behaviors. Multiple programmatic and structural issues, including inconvenient hours and treatment site locations, complicated dosing regimens, inflexible medication dispensing guidelines, and mistreatment by clinic and medical staff also strongly influenced OAT retention. Findings suggest the need for both programmatic and policy-level structural changes such as revising legal regulations covering OAT dispensing, formalizing prescription dosing policies and making OAT more available through other sites, including primary care settings as a way to improve treatment retention. Quality improvement interventions that target treatment settings could also be deployed to overcome healthcare delivery barriers. Additional patient education and medical professional development around establishing realistic treatment goals as well as community awareness campaigns that address the myths and fears associated with OAT can be leveraged to overcome individual, family and community-level barriers.
  2. Marcus R, Bojko MJ, Mazhnaya A, Makarenko I, Filippovych S, Dvoriak S, et al.
    J Subst Abuse Treat, 2018 03;86:86-93.
    PMID: 29415856 DOI: 10.1016/j.jsat.2018.01.003
    Numerous individual barriers, including negative attitudes toward opioid agonist therapies (OAT), have undermined HIV prevention efforts in Ukraine where the epidemic is concentrated in people who inject drugs (PWID). The recent availability of extended-release naltrexone (XR-NTX), an opioid antagonist, provides new opportunities for treatment and prevention, but little is known about patient preferences. We conducted qualitative analysis using focus groups (FG) of PWID recruited based on OAT experience: currently, previously, and never on OAT in five Ukrainian cities. FG included 199 PWID in 25 focus groups. Focus group transcripts were coded and analyzed using a modified grounded theory approach to identify common themes and domains related to attitudes about and preferences for XR-NTX, relative to other treatments. Interest in XR-NTX was supported if supervised opioid withdrawal and psychological support were assured. Other factors supporting XR-NTX included a focus on younger PWID early in their injection career and motivated for recovery. Perceptions of recovery included not receiving psychoactive medications like methadone or buprenorphine. With more information, XR-NTX could be a viable option for PWID in Ukraine, especially if concerns regarding withdrawal and psychological support are adequately addressed.
  3. Marcus R, Makarenko I, Mazhnaya A, Zelenev A, Polonsky M, Madden L, et al.
    Drug Alcohol Depend, 2017 10 01;179:213-219.
    PMID: 28806638 DOI: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.07.010
    BACKGROUND: Scaling up HIV prevention for people who inject drugs (PWID) using opioid agonist therapies (OAT) in Ukraine has been restricted by individual and structural factors. Extended-release naltrexone (XR-NTX), however, provides new opportunities for treating opioid use disorders (OUDs) in this region, where both HIV incidence and mortality continue to increase.

    METHODS: Survey results from 1613 randomly selected PWID from 5 regions in Ukraine who were currently, previously or never on OAT were analyzed for their preference of pharmacological therapies for treating OUDs. For those preferring XR-NTX, independent correlates of their willingness to initiate XR-NTX were examined.

    RESULTS: Among the 1613 PWID, 449 (27.8%) were interested in initiating XR-NTX. Independent correlates associated with interest in XR-NTX included: being from Mykolaiv (AOR=3.7, 95% CI=2.3-6.1) or Dnipro (AOR=1.8, 95% CI=1.1-2.9); never having been on OAT (AOR=3.4, 95% CI=2.1-5.4); shorter-term injectors (AOR=0.9, 95% CI 0.9-0.98); and inversely for both positive (AOR=0.8, CI=0.8-0.9), and negative attitudes toward OAT (AOR=1.3, CI=1.2-1.4), respectively.

    CONCLUSIONS: In the context of Eastern Europe and Central Asia where HIV is concentrated in PWID and where HIV prevention with OAT is under-scaled, new options for treating OUDs are urgently needed.

    FINDINGS: here suggest that XR-NTX could become an option for addiction treatment and HIV prevention especially for PWID who have shorter duration of injection and who harbor negative attitudes to OAT. Decision aids that inform patient preferences with accurate information about the various treatment options are likely to guide patients toward better, patient-centered treatments and improve treatment entry and retention.

  4. Madden L, Bojko MJ, Farnum S, Mazhnaya A, Fomenko T, Marcus R, et al.
    PMID: 28957756 DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2017.07.025
    BACKGROUND: Opioid agonist therapies (OAT) like methadone and buprenorphine maintenance treatment remain markedly under-scaled in Ukraine despite adequate funding. Clinicians and administrators were assembled as part of an implementation science strategy to scale-up OAT using the Network for Improvement of Addiction Treatment (NIATx) approach.

    METHODS: Nominal Group Technique (NGT), a key ingredient of the NIATx toolkit, was directed by three trained coaches within a learning collaborative of 18 OAT clinicians and administrators to identify barriers to increase OAT capacity at the regional "oblast" level, develop solutions, and prioritize local change projects. NGT findings were supplemented from detailed notes collected during the NGT discussion.

    RESULTS: The top three identified barriers included: (1) Strict regulations and inflexible policies dictating distribution and dispensing of OAT; (2) No systematic approach to assessing OAT needs on regional or local level; and (3) Limited funding and financing mechanisms combined with a lack of local/regional control over funding for OAT treatment services.

    CONCLUSIONS: NGT provides a rapid strategy for individuals at multiple levels to work collaboratively to identify and address structural barriers to OAT scale-up. This technique creates a transparent process to address and prioritize complex issues. Targeting these priorities allowed leaders at the regional and national level to advocate collectively for approaches to minimize obstacles and create policies to improve OAT services.

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