With opioid addiction increasing rapidly in the United States, the government is leaving no stone unturned in finding ways directed toward holistic treatment of the society. Recently, a group of 22 Senators, including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, appealed to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to give more access to opioid addiction treatment involving buprenorphine.
Under the current federal regulations, doctors can treat only 30 patients in the first year of getting certified to use buprenorphine for reducing cravings of opioids and effectively lessen the withdrawal symptoms. However, in the subsequent years, doctors can treat as many as 100 patients.
However, the HHS in March 2016 announced a proposal under which qualified doctors can prescribe buprenorphine to 200 patients at a time in their third year of prescribing the drug. HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said, “This proposal is an important step to increasing access to evidence-based treatment to help more people get the treatment necessary for their recovery and is critical in our comprehensive approach to addressing the serious opioid epidemic facing our nation.”
The proposal is not far-sighted, say senators
The 22 senators, however, had a different perspective and believed that the proposal does not take into account the most effective steps. In a letter to Burwell in May 2016, the Senators said that merely doubling the number of patients to 200 will not suffice, especially at the time of such a crisis. According to them, if the medicine has shown to reduce opioid overdoses, it should be made available to anyone who requires treatment for opioid abuse.
The senators, led by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), encouraged HHS to raise the cap to 500 from the current 200 for prescribing buprenorphine. “The current 100 patient cap is one of the several factors that have created a huge disparity between those who can prescribe opioids for treatment of pain and those who can prescribe treatments for opioid use disorder,” said the senators.
According to them, of the 23 million Americans suffering from addiction and substance use disorders, only 10 percent receive proper care in a given year. Raising the cap to only 200 will hardly make an impact for making buprenorphine a viable treatment option during the period of severe opioid crisis, they said. The senators also noted that there are no stringent rules to regulate prescriptions for painkillers written by doctors – one of the main reasons that triggered opioid epidemic. Ed Markey argued, “We don’t restrict doctors from prescribing life-saving medication for any other medical condition, so it makes no sense to limit medication-assisted therapies for those suffering from the disease of opioid addiction.”
When HHS announced the proposal, many doctors were happy about the increase in the patient cap, but some of them felt that there can be more dimensions to it.
Treating opioid addiction
Addiction to opioids is a matter of growing concern in America, and the government is taking adequate steps to curb it. It is important for physicians to know the right kind of medicines that can be prescribed to treat opioid addiction so that the antidote does not become an addiction. However, with new regulations and policies, consistent efforts are being made to treat opioid addiction across the country.
If you or your loved one is addicted to opioids, seek immediate assistance from one of the recognized prescription drug abuse treatment centers in USA. The Prescription Drug Addiction Helpline can guide you to one of the best prescription drug abuse treatment centers that can help you get addiction-free. Chat online or call us at (866) 623-3847 for the treatment options in your area.