TN bill would give state power to regulate Suboxone clinics for the first time

TRI-CITIES, TN (WJHL)- A bill is making its way through the Tennessee legislature that would allow the state to regulate Suboxone clinics for the first time.

There are dozens of Suboxone providers right here in the Tri-Cities.

A previous News Channel 11 investigation revealed Northeast Tennessee has the highest concentration of top Suboxone prescribers for Medicare in the nation.

“There is a huge diversion going on out there now of Suboxone, you have a lot of providers providing, and you don’t know what the quality of the care is,” Dr. Randy Jessee with Frontier Health said.

Suboxone is an opioid itself and is used to treat addiction,but without the right oversight from doctors it can be dangerous.

Right now the state has no power to oversee any of the doctors or clinics prescribing Suboxone and its generic counterpart.

“We’ve seen the creation of unregulated Suboxone clinics spring up,” TN Sen. Ken Yager (R- Distrct 12) said.

“It seems to be, in terms of demand, a relatively lucrative business as well, and so there would be some reason for physicians to turn to this,” Jessee said.

Yagar, the bill’s sponsor, said he saw a need for regulation because of the number of clinics popping up.

“These rules would give them the right to have some oversight over the operations of these clinics it would also probably give them some, as a result of oversight, some investigatory responsibilities, where there might be a complaint or infraction of the law,” Yagat said.

Right now to open up a Methadone clinic you must go through the lengthy process of getting a certificate of need or CON from the state.

“And really these Suboxone clinics are nothing more than unregulated methadone clinics,” Yagar said.

He said originally this bill required Suboxone clinics to get a CON but a compromise reached in the House deleted that requirement. Instead, if this bill passes, Yagar said  the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services will come up with rules to govern these clinics.

Yager said this bill is the first step, not the last in getting some oversight for these clinics.

He said this bill will come up for a vote in the House next week.

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All Rights Reserved.

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