Doctors who in the past were only allowed to treat 100 patients at a time with the opioid addiction medication buprenorphine will now be able to treat up to 275 patients, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Sylvia Burwell announced.
Doctors will be able to obtain a waiver to increase the number of patients they treat if they have additional credentialing in addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry from a specialty medical board and/or professional society, or practice in what the HHS deems a qualified setting.
An estimated 2.2 million Americans met the criteria for opioid addiction in 2014, CNN reports. About one million received medication-assisted treatment. Of that million, about 60 percent to 65 percent received buprenorphine, while the rest received methadone.
HHS also announced other actions to combat opioid addiction, including a proposal to eliminate financial incentives for doctors to prescribe opioids based on patient surveys. The department also will require prescribers and pharmacists from the Indian Health Service to check their state prescription drug monitoring program databases before they prescribe or dispense opioids.
HHS is also launching more than a dozen studies on opioid misuse and pain treatment, HHS stated in a news release.