An attempt to get treatment to more people with opioid addiction will be go into effect starting Aug. 8.
Under a new Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration rule, doctors can sign up to treat more addicted patients by prescribing them buprenorphine, a methodone substitute considered more convenient and safe.
Historically, physicians could treat only 30 patients at a time in the first year they are certified to prescribe. They could then receive authorization to treat up to 100 patients in subsequent years. Given as many as 2.2 million people are believed to have opioid use disorder, the cap was viewed as too restrictive.
“For too long, addiction specialists like me have had to turn patients in need away from treatment that might save their lives, not because we don't have the expertise or capacity to treat them, but because of an arbitrary federal limit,” Dr. Jeffrey Goldsmith, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, said in a statement.
Now providers can treat as many as 275 patients at a time if they have an active waiver to treat up to 100 patients for one year and undergo additional credentialing in addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry. They must also practice in a qualified practice setting.
Some practitioners worry the new requirements will be too much of a burden. Prescribers who seek the higher patient limit must also have access to behavioral health services such as addiction treatment counselors. They will be required to use patient data to improve outcomes and participate in strategies to prevent patients from giving their prescribed opiates to another person illegally.