HHS improves access to opioid addiction treatment with new actions to fight opioid abuse

On Wednesday, HHS announced new actions to combat the nation's ongoing opioid epidemic, including expanding access to a medication commonly used to treat opioid dependence called buprenorphine.

The new medication-assisted treatment rule — effective Aug. 5 — will allow physicians who are authorized to prescribe buprenorphine to expand the maximum number of patients they can prescribe the drug from 100 to 275. HHS estimates that the new rule will allow between 10,000 and 90,000 new patients to obtain the drug in the first of year of the rule's implementation. In years to come, the organization approximates an additional 2,000 to 15,000 new patients will gain access to the medication in years to come, according to USA Today.

The agency also announced a proposal to remove pain management questions from the HCAHPS survey to eliminate financial incentives for overprescribing pain medication, a new policy requiring Indian Health Services to check state prescription drug monitoring programs before prescribing opioids, the launch of more than a dozen new studies into opioid misuse and pain management and soliciting feedback to expand prescriber access to education and training programs regarding opioid prescription.

HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said, "More Americans now die from drug overdoses than car crashes, and these overdoses have hit families from every walk of life and across our entire nation. At HHS, we are helping to lead the nationwide effort to address the opioid epidemic by taking a targeted approach focused on prevention, treatment and intervention."

The new actions are in keeping with new federal initiatives to combat the worst drug overdose epidemic in the nation's history. In February, President Barack Obama proposed allocating $1.1 billion in funding to be used to beat back the persistent opioid epidemic.

Ms. Burwell added, "These actions build on this approach. However, if we truly want to turn the tide on this epidemic, Congress should approve the president's $1.1 billion budget request for this work."

While the announcement garnered enthusiasm from some, one expert working in the field of drug addiction was underwhelmed by the new measures.

Some experts believe there should be no cap at all on the number of patients physicians can treat with buprenorphine, citing stigma — not scientific data — as the primary impetus for the restriction.

Patrick Kennedy, co-founder of Advocates for Opioid Recovery who has personally suffered from drug addiction and mental illness, told USA Today, "If this were pancreatic cancer or diabetes, this whole thing would be laughable." However, the former congressman did add that the new actions were "better than nothing even if it doesn't amount to much."

More articles on quality: 
CMS overall star ratings have 'several shortcomings,' analysis finds 
Zinc tablets help patients recover from colds quicker 
Lawsuit claims misdiagnosis, unnecessary removal of organ and cover-up at KU Hospital

Copyright © 2022 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars