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Fewer Than Half of Opioid Addiction Patients Are Offered Evidence-Based Care. That’s Got to Change.

Courtney Gallo Hunter, VP, State Policy
Buprenorphine Prescription Chart

Opioid addiction is treatable. There are 3 FDA-approved medications that are highly effective in treating opioid use disorder (OUD)—in fact, these medications are considered the gold standard of care. But the sad truth is this: they are sorely underutilized. Fewer than half of people with OUD receive buprenorphine as part of their treatment.

Shatterproof’s new report shows county-by-county disparities and illustrates that over 1,200 counties in the U.S. lack access to buprenorphine. The main driver of this disparity is the waiver requirement, which mandates that physicians receive a special training and waiver to prescribe buprenorphine to patients. Meanwhile, any physician can prescribe an opioid at any time.

Of the 74,000 physicians who have obtained a waiver to prescribe buprenorphine, only 43,700 physicians disclose publicly that they can treat patients with OUD. This presents a significant access challenge for the millions who suffer from OUD and are unable to obtain effective treatment. Unfortunately, this disparity is greater in rural communities.

In order to increase access to treatment for those struggling, our report emphasizes the need to remove the buprenorphine waiver requirement. Especially during the global COVID-19 pandemic, in order to prevent a drastic increase in overdoses, we need to expand access to this lifesaving medication and allow providers to prescribe it via telemedicine.

Our federal government has a big opportunity to help with this. The Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act would eliminate the separate waiver, called DATA 2000 X-waiver, needed to prescribe buprenorphine for addiction treatment. We know that removing barriers to buprenorphine saves lives. Please, write to your Members of Congress today to ask them to include the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act (H.R. 2482/S. 2074), in the COVID-19 stimulus packages. Take action now!

Now more than ever, we’ve got to expand access to evidence-based treatments like buprenorphine. Lives depend on it.


Courtney Gallo Hunter is Shatterproof's Vice President of State Policy.