Lawmakers propose fewer restrictions on buprenorphine as a treatment for opioid addiction

Written by: Darren Young on Monday, June 27, 2016 Posted in: Home Infusion, Specialty Pharmacy

Lawmakers propose fewer restrictions on buprenorphine as a treatment for opioid addiction-01Every day, 78 Americans die from an opioid overdose. In fact, this highly addictive class of drugs is responsible for six out of every ten drug overdose deaths. (1) This includes not just heroin but commonly prescribed pain relievers like hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, and fentanyl. However, another medication, buprenorphine, is considered opioid addicts’ “best chance … to make a lasting recovery,” (2) yet federal regulations restrict the number of patients prescribers can treat with this medication, which is considered safe and effective. (3) Would the removal of these restrictions enable more addicts to get help before it’s too late? Lawmakers think so.

Manage complex specialty drugs with CPR+!

Buprenorphine, a specialty medication sold in the U.S. under the brand name Suboxone, is used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help reduce opioid cravings and minimize withdrawal symptoms. Currently, prescribers can only treat 30 patients during their first year of buprenorphine certification and as many as 100 in subsequent years. In late March, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed that this be increased to 200, but recently, 22 senators signed a letter urging HHS to allow doctors to prescribe the drug to as many as 500 patients each year. (4)

In the letter, written to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the bipartisan group noted that a mere “10% of the 23 million Americans with addictions and substance use disorders receive any care in a given year.” And while the lawmakers said they appreciated the decision to increase the cap, they pointed out that expanding to only 200 is unlikely to have significant impact on America’s growing opioid problem. (5)

Naturally, there are concerns about the potential for misuse of buprenorphine. However, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the specialty drug is prescribed as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes counseling and participation in social support programs (as are all MATs). (6) Therefore, lawmakers believe that the benefits far outweigh the risks and may provide some hope for even more Americans struggling with addiction.

 

References:

  1. “Understanding the Epidemic”; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; http://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html
  2. “Senators Urge Feds to Expand Access to Opioid Addiction Medication”; The Huffington Post; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/buprenorphine-suboxone-hhs_us_574f850fe4b0c3752dcc7ec3?utm_campaign=KHN%3A+Daily+Health+Policy+Report&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=30188607&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-9kwAj-_cQBnzss6wvnTxmz5aL3dD-kIJaxHVqVUb7v1xUAjZ4_QhCMjjzR3b2EKytYBIURD6LGipRmTuUuIIuYeHI73Ee9aYsq03K7mnEgzGEw41A&_hsmi=30188607
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; http://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment/buprenorphine
  4. “Senators Urge Feds to Expand Access to Opioid Addiction Medication”; The Huffington Post; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/buprenorphine-suboxone-hhs_us_574f850fe4b0c3752dcc7ec3?utm_campaign=KHN%3A+Daily+Health+Policy+Report&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=30188607&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-9kwAj-_cQBnzss6wvnTxmz5aL3dD-kIJaxHVqVUb7v1xUAjZ4_QhCMjjzR3b2EKytYBIURD6LGipRmTuUuIIuYeHI73Ee9aYsq03K7mnEgzGEw41A&_hsmi=30188607
  5. https://www.kirk.senate.gov/LetterSecBurwellMAT060116.pdf
  6. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; http://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment/buprenorphine

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *