To battle opioid addiction, feds expand access to treatment

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)— Doctors who treat opioid addiction with the drug Buprenorphine will be allowed to prescribe to more patients, the Obama administration said Wednesday.

This comes as lawmakers debate the best way to combat one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

Under current rules, doctors can only prescribe Buprenorphine, a narcotic that treats pain and opioid addiction, to 100 patients. Under the new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rule, doctors will be authorized to prescribe the drug to as many as 275.

The change is set to take place in August.

Executive Director of Patient Access to Addiction Treatment, Paul Trivette said the move is instrumental.

“Most importantly in all of this is that patients get access to care and treatment for this horrible disease that is plaguing our society,” he said.

Buprenorphine, found in Suboxone, is the most common form of medication assisted treatment for opioid addiction, according to federal officials.

Dr. Tim Smyth, a board certified addicitionologist, who practices at Catalyst Heath Solutions in Johnson City, was happy to hear that the Buprenorphine treatment cap has been increased. He normally operates right near the 100 patient cap.

“This medication is life saving,” said Smyth. “It changes their lives. They don’t get high off of it; they don’t crave the other medicines…the heroin, the painkillers, and so forth.”

The higher cap is expected to help 17,000 new patients get treatment. The move does not require congressional approval, however Obama’s plan to add $1.1 billion to anti-opioid programs does.

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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