US removes barriers to prescribing addiction medications

The Biden administration has eased the requirements decades ago that made it difficult for doctors to use drugs to treat opioid addiction.

New guidelines released on Tuesday mean that doctors and other healthcare professionals do not need extra time training to prescribe buprenorphine, a gold standard drug that helps craving. And they no longer need to refer patients to counseling services.

Under relaxed guidelines, prescribers can treat up to 30 patients with medication at one time. It comes in a pill or film that melts under the tongue. It costs about $ 100 a month. A common version of buprenorphine is Suboxone.

Depending on how opioids act on the brain, people who depend on opioids get sick when they stop using them. Withdrawal symptoms may feel like the flu with cramps, sweating, anxiety, and insomnia. The craving for drugs is so intense that recurrence is common.

Buprenorphine helps patients by moving patients from illicit opioids such as powerful painkillers or heroin to regular administration of legitimate opioid-based drugs.

In addition to doctors, nurse practitioners, doctor midwives, certified nurse midwives, and other types of nurses can prescribe buprenorphine without special training.

The Trump administration tried to make similar changes on the final day, but that would only apply to doctors.

The Biden administration has decided to put the issue on hold for a review of laws and policies, and eventually extend simpler guidelines to more prescribers.

Brendan Saloner, an addiction researcher at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said: “This is useful in health centers, hospitals, prisons, prisons, and other places where these people may appear for treatment.”

More stringent requirements remain for prescribers who want to treat more than 30 patients at a time.

Prescribing requirements date back to the 2000 law and are intended to prevent easy access to potentially misused medicines. However, only a few doctors performed the procedure, and in many parts of the country patients were unable to find a prescriber. Ironically, doctors were able to prescribe buprenorphine for pain without additional training.

Deaths from drug overdose in the United States increased during the coronavirus pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 90,000 drug overdose deaths in the 12 months to September. This is the highest number ever in a year. There is no data for the entire 2020 yet. The numbers are tentative.

The change “will increase the number of prescribers and the number of patients receiving prescriptions,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, assistant health minister.


The Associated Press’s Department of Health Sciences is supported by the Department of Science Education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is solely responsible for all content.