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    U.S. Denies Lifesaving Medications to People with Opioid Use Disorder, Investigation Finds

    Almost every sector of American society is obstructing use of methadone and buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorder, according to a yearlong investigation by STAT.

    Buprenorphine and methadone (medications to treat opioid use disorder, or MOUD) are cheap, easy to distribute and effective at decreasing substance use, overdose and death risk and withdrawal symptoms, the article notes. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, estimated that if methadone and buprenorphine were made universally available nationwide, opioid overdoses would fall by half or more.

    Narcotics Anonymous opposes the use of MOUD, leading would-be participants to be banned from chapter meetings. Hundreds of jails and prisons bar use of these medications even when prescribed by a doctor. Even opioid treatment programs, which otherwise support the use of medications, can make them all but impossible to access by requiring daily trips and imposing other restrictions.

    Few doctors prescribe buprenorphine, and roughly 40% of Walmart, Rite Aid and CVS pharmacy locations decline to stock it. Many hospitals still do not offer patients MOUD even after an overdose. Insurers sometimes refuse to pay for new injectable buprenorphine formulations, which are shown to help retention in treatment but cost more than cheaper daily versions. Many rehab facilities and sober living houses refuse to admit people taking MOUD.


    March 2024