In late May 2015, Senators Markey (D-Mass.) and Paul (R-Ky.) reintroduced the Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act (the “TREAT Act”) to enhance the treatment of heroin addicts.
At the core of this legislation is the ability to subscribe buprenorphine (brand name “Suboxone”), an effective medication for successful treatment. Though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug over a decade ago, regulations also placed limits on the drug’s usage by medical providers. According to current regulations, certified doctors can treat only 30 patients at a time during the first year after certification, and then only 100 patients at a time during the second year after certification.
Medical experts are unsure of the reason for imposing such a limitation, which eventually created a treatment crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heroin deaths doubled in 28 states from 2010 – 2012 and increased 39% nationwide from 2012-2013. Meanwhile, approximately 30 million Americans live in counties without even 1 doctor certified to prescribe Suboxone and others are on long waiting lists to see certified doctors who are “maxed out” on their treatment caps.
The medical community agrees that medication such as Suboxone or Methadone and counseling seem to give the best change of sobriety; therefore, the new legislation is aimed at making the medications more readily available.
If the legislation is enacted into law:
– Certified Suboxone doctors will have only a 1st-year cap of 100 patients at a time;
– Certified Suboxone doctors can have the cap entire removed by certification as “substance abuse treatment specialists” or completion of approved training and work at an approved clinical setting;
– Nurse Practitioners and Physicians Assistants could also be certified to prescribe Suboxone.
The bill was initially introduced in 2014 but languished and died in the Senate; consequently, Senators Markey and Paul reintroduced the measure this year. A similar bill is being introduced in the House by Representatives Higgins (D-NY), Hanna (R-NY) Tonko (D-NY) and Katco (R-NY).
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