April 29, 2021
HHS Decision to Expand Access to Opioid Use Disorder Treatment
On April 27, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced updated practice guidelines to expand access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) by allowing physicians to prescribe buprenorphine for opioid use disorder (OUD) without the regulatory barriers of certain certification requirements. This follows the previous administration’s announcement to expand treatment for OUD, which was then placed on hold at the start of the Biden Administration. ASA supports the efforts by this administration to address the opioid crisis and improve patients’ access to treatment by the physician of their choice.
Patients often have difficulty finding physicians who are authorized to prescribe buprenorphine. ASA supports the removal of barriers, such as the x-waiver, that discourage physicians from being certified to prescribe buprenorphine; physicians having the appropriate authority to treat patients with OUD is critical to ending the opioid epidemic . The announcement differs from the previous administration’s practice guidelines by allowing physician assistants and advanced practice nurse practitioners to prescribe buprenorphine. Providers should become educated on the management of patients with opioid use disorder to help address the ongoing overdose epidemic and ease the persistent health disparities patients are facing.
The 12-month period ending in June 2020 saw the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period, and an increase of over 21% compared to the previous year. The increase in overdose deaths within the United States highlights the need for treatment services to be more widely accessible for individuals most at risk of an overdose. Without MAT, the possibility of a person relapsing is significant.
ASA thanks HHS for removing these barriers for physicians treating patients with opioid use disorder.
Read the full guidelines from HHS here.