Too many barriers stand in the way of people receiving quality addiction treatment. Stigma is arguably the greatest barrier. Not only does it prevent people from seeking treatment, it has influenced policies and created regulatory hurdles that make treatment inaccessible.
Buprenorphine is one of the three medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for opioid addiction treatment. Unlike any other medication, health care providers are required to obtain a “waiver,” or special permission from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to prescribe buprenorphine and are only allowed to treat a limited number of patients at a time. To put this in perspective, no such restriction applies to narcotic pain relievers.
While the waiver requirement was intended to prevent diversion (non-medical use or use by someone to whom it wasn’t prescribed) and unethical prescribing, instead it has greatly limited access to an effective treatment in the midst of a public health epidemic. The time is long over-due to remove the buprenorphine waiver requirement and expand access to this life-saving treatment.
Congress is currently considering a bill, the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act of 2019, which would eliminate the waiver requirement to prescribe buprenorphine. With a couple of clicks and a minute of your time, you can send a message to your Members of Congress to expand access to this life-saving medication.
While removing the waiver is a critical step, more is needed to ensure access to quality, effective addiction treatment. We also need health care providers to receive increased training on addiction and to provide adequate insurance coverage for the costs of care. For additional information, please read our position statement on the buprenorphine prescribing waiver.