US nixes plan for easier buprenorphine prescription, X-waiver remains

President Joe Biden's administration has canceled the previous administration's last-minute effort to allow physicians to prescribe buprenorphine more easily, anonymous sources familiar with the plan told the Washington Post.

On Jan. 14, HHS said it would update its guidelines to exempt physicians from the X waiver, a requirement mandated by Congress in 2000 that necessitates physicians receive a day’s training before they can prescribe buprenorphine, a drug that treats opioid addiction and chronic pain. Before he was elected, President Biden's plan to end the opioid crisis supported this measure.

However, since President Biden took office, legal experts warned the administration that HHS is not authorized to issue guidelines that allow physicians to avoid requirements Congress mandated, sources told the newspaper.

"On January 14, 2021, HHS announced forthcoming practice guidelines for the administration of buprenorphine for treating opioid use disorder. Unfortunately, the announcement was made prematurely. Therefore, the guidelines previously announced cannot be issued at this time," a message from the White House’s drug policy office obtained by the Washington Post reads.

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