Congressman Brian Higgins welcomed the White House announcement of a final rule expanding access to medication-assisted treatment for those suffering from opioid addiction - measures similar to those proposed in Higgins' TREAT bill, the Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act (H.R.2536).
Buprenorphine is a drug proven to help wean those addicted to opioids off harmful substances. Currently, more than 800,000 physicians can write controlled substance prescriptions, but only about 33,000 can prescribe medication, like buprenorphine, used to treat addiction. The number of people health professionals can help shrinks even further when one considers prescribers are limited to treating just 30 patients in the first year, and up to 100 in year two and beyond, with adequate certification.
This week, the Obama administration announced the Department of Health and Human Services will issue a final rule increasing the number of patients qualified health care providers can treat from 100 to 275. The goal of increased access to medication-assisted opioid addiction treatment is a major component of Higgins' TREAT Act, which aims to eliminate the patient cap entirely and also expand prescribing authority to qualified physician assistants and nurse practitioners.
The expanded treatment program, for eligible prescribers, will go into effect in August.
"Action announced today will open new doors to treatment for individuals and families struggling to beat addiction," Higgins said.
Expansion of medication-assisted treatment is just one of several actions outlined by the White House aimed at addressing the epidemic. Another key component of the package is improved prescriber education to provide guidance and help medical professionals make informed decisions when prescribing addictive substances.
This week, the House and Senate continue negotiations on a final opioid legislation package. The president requested $1.1 billion to address the opioid epidemic. Under that proposal, New York would be eligible for up to $44 million over the next two years to expand treatment.
According to HHS, since 1999, the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids has nearly quadrupled. In 2014 alone, opioid overdoses took the lives of more than 28,000 nationwide.