Turner bill would clear ‘x-waiver’ barrier for opioid treatment

FILE
FILE

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, with a New York congressman, introduced a bill Thursday that they say would make more widely available a medication that improves the odds of patients seeking recovery from opioid addiction.

Introduced as the “Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act,” the bill would eliminate a requirement (sometimes called the “x-waiver”) that limits doctors from prescribing a medication, Buprenorphine, for patients with opioid addiction.

“Experts on the front lines of the opioid crisis agree that Buprenorphine helps treat opioid addiction, yet under current law, we are constricting practitioners’ ability to prescribe this medicine, and in doing so, limiting access to millions of Americans who desperately need help, " Turner said in a release from his office.

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More than 40% of U.S. counties do not a have a physician licensed to prescribe this medicine, Turner’s office said. The bill would expand this treatment option.

Under a federal rule change made in the final weeks of the Trump administration, most doctors would be allowed to prescribe this medication, also called by brand name “Suboxone.”

But the Biden administration reversed that policy. The Washington Post reported last month that the previous administration’s plan was “plagued by legal and operational problems, including a failure to get necessary clearance from the White House budget office.”

Jonas Thom, vice president of behavioral health at CareSource, told the Dayton Daily News last month that the Trump rule change was “removing a barrier that I think is the right barrier to remove.”

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Buprenorphine is sometimes hampered by stigma that it “replaces one drug with another” and Thom said he thinks the rule change is acknowledging that stigma is fading.

Turner’s release Thursday cited a National Institutes of Health study that showed France’s opioid overdose deaths declined by nearly 80% over four years after France made buprenorphine prescriptions possible without a waiver.

His release also said the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, the American College of Emergency Physicians and other groups support this legislation.

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