Passing Federal Legislation Would Make Medications for Addiction Treatment More Accessible
April 29, 2020, New York, NY — In a recent study conducted by Shatterproof, it was uncovered that despite the effectiveness of buprenorphine as medication to treat those with opioid use disorder (OUD), it is still not widely offered to patients. Of the 1.3 million physicians, nurse practitioners and physicians in the United States that can prescribe opioids, a shocking 3.4 percent of those medical professionals publicly disclose that they can prescribe buprenorphine to treat those who are addicted to opioids.
Prescribers of buprenorphine are required to complete special training and obtain a federal waiver. Only 5.7 percent of medical professionals are waivered. Thirty-nine percent of U.S. counties do not have a publicly-listed waivered buprenorphine prescriber, making it challenging to access treatment for the 18 million residents of those counties.
“Even though addiction is a treatable illness, we needlessly lose hundreds of lives every day due to a nationwide shortage of trustworthy, affordable, evidence-based care,” said Gary Mendell, founder and CEO of Shatterproof. “Addiction rates are expected to soar due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the perfect storm of challenges it is creating. In the context of COVID-19, we see clearly that those suffering from substance use disorders are not granted adequate access, protections, or support by the healthcare system—specifically when it comes to access to medications for addiction treatment (MAT).”
As the addiction and overdose crisis continues to ravage communities across the country, the United States federal government has a critical opportunity to help with two bills Congress should pass.
The Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act is a bipartisan piece of legislation that would eliminate the separate waiver, called DATA 2000 X-waiver, needed to prescribe buprenorphine for addiction treatment. Evidence from other countries show that removing barriers to buprenorphine saves lives. For example, France saw a 79% decline in fatal overdoses over three years after buprenorphine prescribing regulations were eliminated in that country.
The Medication Access and Training Expansion (MATE) Act is designed to ensure that all DEA-controlled medication prescribers have a baseline knowledge of how to prevent addiction and how to identify, treat, and manage patients who have substance use disorders. Shockingly, addiction treatment is currently not a focus in many medical schools, meaning most doctors do not know how to identify or treat substance use disorder, despite the public health emergency that it is.
Treatment with buprenorphine is highly effective. In fact, people with OUD are up to 50 percent less likely to die when they are being treated long term with methadone or buprenorphine. Despite the evidence of efficacy, medical professionals do not pursue a waiver to prescribe buprenorphine due to limited time, inadequate education and/or concern about OUD-related stigma.
Over 2 million people in the United States have OUD and the number of OUD-related deaths is more than 47,000, 128 people per day.
Shatterproof is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to reversing the course of the addiction crisis in America. Shatterproof is focused on ensuring that American substance use disorder treatment is based upon proven research and ending the stigma of addiction. The organization advocates for changes to federal and state policy, payer reform, treatment quality assessment, and provides public education through online programs.