Obama administration announces new proposals to stem opioid epidemic

By Matt Kuhrt

As part of the federal government's response to the ongoing opioid addiction epidemic, the Obama administration has announced a proposal that would allow physicians to issue more prescriptions for buprenorphine, according to a story in STAT.

Frequently known by the brand names Subutex or Suboxone, buprenorphine is a mild narcotic used to wean users off heroin and prescription opioids. While some medical professionals see its use as a vital intermediary step in moving patients toward recovery, FiercePracticeManagement has reported skepticism in some areas of the industry due to the potential for redirection and misuse of the drug.

Today's proposal "aims to increase access to medication-assisted treatment and behavioral health supports for tens of thousands of people with opioid use disorders," according to a statement from White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. By doubling the current cap on the number of patients to whom a doctor can prescribe buprenorphine from 100 to 200, CNN reports the new proposal will work in concert with an increase in the limited number of prescribing physicians to increase overall access to the drug.

The move follows on the heels of the Food and Drug Administration's recent decision to beef up warning labels for prescription opioids, a move intended to reduce the number of new addicts by urging hospitals and physicians to take greater care as they balance pain management via opioids with the potential for addiction.

In addition to raising the buprenorphine cap, CNN reports a range of additional moves at both the state and federal level. These include initiatives aimed at investigating distribution networks, increasing access to mental health and substance abuse programs, and funding to increase access to naloxone, used to counter opioid overdoses.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement 
- read the STAT story
- see the article on CNN