DEA loosens regulations, allows NPs and PAs to prescribe meds for opioid addiction: 4 things to know

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The Drug Enforcement Agency on Tuesday issued a deregulatory measure to expand access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction in underserved, rural communities with few physicians.

Here are four things to know.

1. The new rule permits nurse practitioners and physician assistants to gain certification to prescribe buprenorphine, which can help curb opioid cravings and minimize withdrawal symptoms. The move brings the agency in line with the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act signed into law in 2016.

2. The 2016 legislation adjusted the Drug Abuse Treatment Act of 2000, which stated only physicians registered with the DEA could prescribe controlled substance for addiction treatment. This left patients in rural communities underserved, as 90 percent of physicians certified to prescribe buprenorphine practiced in urban counties, according to 2017 data from the National Rural Health Association.

3. The 2000 law left "53 percent of rural counties without any prescribing physician and 30 million people living in counties where treatment is unavailable," said the DEA. As a result, many rural patients must travel long distances to receive outpatient buprenorphine treatment.

4. The DEA has approved 5,000 mid-level practitioners to treat and prescribe medication to patients with opioid addiction. Nearly 43,000 such practitioners nationwide may now qualify for this DEA approval.

More articles on opioids: 
Tennessee health system cuts daily inpatient opioid use by 40%: 3 things to know 
NYC files opioid lawsuit against 8 drugmakers, distributors 
One in seven nursing home residents receive long-term opioids prescriptions

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