How the shutdown is complicating addiction treatment for some providers

The ongoing government shutdown could hinder treatment for patients with opioid use disorder, since clinicians need approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration to prescribe medication-assisted treatments like buprenorphine, reports amNewYork.

In the first year after gaining DEA approval, clinicians are allowed to write 30 prescriptions for buprenorphine. After a second approval, providers can prescribe the drugs to up to 100 patients annually.

However, some physicians are close to hitting this 100-person cap and said it's been difficult to contact the DEA amid the shutdown. Anthony Martinez, MD, a physician with Buffalo, N.Y.-based Erie County Medical Center, said he's given 97 patients Suboxone and has another six on the waiting list. Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine and the opioid overdose antidote naloxone.

"[W]e're quickly … coming up against that 100-patient cap," Dr. Martinez told WBUR. "We have submitted the waiver, but now it hinges on the DEA's approval."

If the DEA does not approve this waiver, Dr. Martinez said he may need to turn patients away.

"We're very mindful of the cap. That said we also don't want to turn patients away," he told WBUR. "We've had some community support in some of the providers that have come forward and willing to utilize spots on their own waivers to help us while we're in this situation."

More articles on opioids:
Opioid epidemic pushes Starbucks to install needle-disposal boxes in bathrooms
Viewpoint: Hospital-based physicians must share what they know to end opioid crisis
6 ways UC San Diego Health is fighting the opioid epidemic

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