By
Holly Jespersen

 

January 14, 2021 

Shatterproof is pleased to share the important announcement made by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to eliminate the buprenorphine waiver requirement for certain DEA-licensed prescribers. As the opioid epidemic has worsened, Shatterproof and its thousands of grassroots advocates have pressed for the removal of the buprenorphine waiver requirement and strongly supports today’s decision by HHS.  This regulatory change will allow physicians to prescribe one of the most effective treatments for opioid use disorder without a special waiver. By doing so, they have significantly expanded access to evidence-based treatment for addiction. We know 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. 

Kevin Roy, Shatterproof’s Chief Policy Officer, explains the importance of this policy change: “Despite the known effectiveness of medications for addiction treatment (MAT), it is vastly underused — fewer than half of people with opioid use disorder (OUD) receive it. This policy change removes a barrier for primary care doctors and emergency room physicians, among others, to initiate treatment for their patients with OUD.  This gives providers the opportunity to stabilize a patient as they assess the level of care needed with addiction specialists when needed. The weight of the evidence suggests that this critical change to remove barriers to buprenorphine treatment will save lives.  Importantly, the notice of this policy change also strongly encourages Colleges of Medicine to continue implementing comprehensive training on substance use disorder as part of its required core curriculum.  This is more important than ever given the growing and evolving nature of this crisis.”  

Shatterproof released a report on buprenorphine availability in 2020 that found that only 39% of counties in the United States have access to this medication. The main barrier to access has been the waiver requirement, as patients struggle to find physicians who are authorized to prescribe the medication. Less than 6% of providers in the U.S. have received the special waiver. Many prescribers do not pursue a waiver because of limited time, inadequate education about addiction medicine, or concern about OUD-related stigma.  

About Shatterproof: 
Shatterproof is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to reversing the addiction crisis in the United States. Shatterproof harnesses the models of business, the rigor of science and the power of a national movement to create change and save lives through three pillars of work: revolutionizing the addiction treatment system, breaking down addiction-related stigmas and supporting and empowering our communities. To learn more visit www.Shatterproof.org