Biden administration loosens restrictions on meds for opioid use disorder amid rise in deaths

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Tuesday released federal guidelines that allow more providers to prescribe buprenorphine and nix the eight-hour training requirement to prescribe the drug.

Under the new guidelines, qualified physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified registered nurse anesthetists and certified nurse midwives are exempt from undergoing training to treat up to 30 patients with buprenorphine.

Buprenorphine is one of three drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for addressing opioid use disorder. It is intended to help reduce cravings, limit or eliminate withdrawal symptoms and, according to clinical trials, decrease the risk of overdose deaths.

Why this matters: For years, experts have said that the “X-waiver” needed to prescribe the drug creates an unnecessary hurdle to treating opioid addiction.

A 2019 survey found only 18 percent of the 1.6 million with opioid use disorder received medication assisted treatment.

“These new guidelines are an important step in the right direction and will ultimately save lives and help more people find recovery,” Tom Coderre, the acting assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, said.

Follows: In the most recent data released, drug overdose deaths reached a record-high for the 12-month period ending in September with more than 97,000 fatalities.