The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will remove some obstacles that limit the ability of doctors to prescribe buprenorphine for patients who are addicted to heroin or prescription painkillers, The Huffington Post reports.
Under current regulations, doctors who are certified to prescribe buprenorphine (sold as Suboxone) are allowed to write prescriptions for up to 30 patients initially. After one year, they can request authorization to prescribe up to a maximum of 100 patients. The HHS will develop revisions to the regulations “to provide a balance between expanding the supply of this important treatment, encouraging the use of evidence-based [medication-assisted treatment], and minimizing the risk of drug diversion,” the department said in a press release.
In areas hard hit by opioid addiction, doctors’ buprenorphine treatment slots can fill up quickly, the article notes. One recent study found buprenorphine treatment is unavailable in U.S. counties where more than 30 million people live.
Legislation proposed earlier this year by U.S. Senators Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Rand Paul of Kentucky would increase the first-year cap from 30 patients to 100, and would allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe buprenorphine. After one year, physicians could seek to remove the cap entirely if they were certified as substance abuse treatment specialists, or if they went through an approved training.
Dr. Jeffrey Goldsmith, President of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, said in a statement that his organization “applauds the Administration for taking this step to expand access to evidence-based addiction treatment and close the gap between those who need treatment and those who receive it.”