woodbridge methadone

Ohio Increases Buprenorphine Access

In 2017, Ohio increased its number of buprenorphine-approved prescribers by 266. This was the result of a $2.3 million dollar Federal grant that provided state-wide training to doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants as reported by Cleveland.com.

Historically, Ohio had numerous communities that were underserved with 19 counties having no buprenorphine providers at the beginning of 2017. The number of counties without buprenorphine access has presently been dropped to just 10. This increase in approved Ohio physicians will allow many more individuals to gain access to life-saving opioid addiction treatment.

The linked article above reports that additional trainings will be made available in 2018 in order to bring buprenorphine services to all areas of Ohio. In related news, a National Budget proposal aims to earmark $13 billion in new funding over years 2018 and 2019 in order to fight back the ongoing opioid crisis. How much money is ultimately allocated for this purpose will be determined by Congress.

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New Patient Limit Raised for Buprenorphine Physicians

buprenorphine doctor 2The DATA 2000 Act allowed approved physicians to treat 30 patients with opioid addiction using buprenorphine, and up to 100 patients following an approved application to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).

The 100 patient limit was recently raised to 275 patients out of a necessity for physicians to treat more people in response to the rising American opioid addiction crisis. Those doctors eligible for the 275 patient limit must have received a waiver to treat 100 patients for at least one year. In order to apply for the 275 patient limit, physicians must provide their DEA number, State medical license number, and buprenorphine training certificate information.

Nurse Practitioners (NPs) and Physician Assistants (PAs) can now receive training and become approved to write prescriptions for buprenorphine-based products. This expansion of buprenorphine availability will help those struggling with addiction to more readily find a provider in their community who is able to treat their opioid dependency.

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Insurance Company Removes Barrier to Buprenorphine

buprenorphine-medicationA major health insurer, Cigna Corp., has agreed to discontinue the practice of requiring physicians to obtain preauthorization in the prescribing of buprenorphine products. This is a superior decision that will enable physicians to more quickly help patients suffering with opioid addiction.

The Wall Street Journal published this information in their recent business segment and highlighted that the preauthorization process typically introduced a wait time of several days as well as an extensive list of questions that patients must answer in order to be eligible for buprenorphine treatment.

This groundbreaking achievement of removing barriers was accomplished by Eric Schneiderman, the New York State Attorney General. He pressed for answers as to why the insurer’s policy introduced potential barriers to treatment when buprenorphine has been proven to be highly effective and in demand.

Attorney General Schneiderman’s advocacy for opioid addicted patients has opened the door to saving lives while publicizing a need to enable physicians to utilize medication-assisted treatment that is irrefutably beneficial in managing opioid withdrawal, reducing opioid overdose risks, and reducing relapse potential with illicit opiates.

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Comparing Buprenorphine and Methadone

Buprenorphine and methadone are the two leading medications available for the treatment of opioid addiction. Their primary medical benefit is their ability to eliminate opioid withdrawal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, runny nose, chills, sweating, muscle ache, cramps, anxiety, agitation, and sleeplessness.

Buprenorphine and methadone are FDA-approved and have been in use for a combined 50+ years. Scientific research has proven the effectiveness of both medications, and they have been deemed a best practice treatment intervention by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Methadone is a full opioid agonist whereas buprenorphine is categorized as a partial opioid agonist. Because of this, buprenorphine has a better safety profile and has less potential for overdose than does methadone. Buprenorphine’s improved safety profile allows it to be offered by prescription from a physician’s office. Methadone is more highly regulated and must be administered every day in a clinic setting.

Being able to take buprenorphine products at home (like Suboxone) provides much more convenience for those individuals with daytime jobs and other pressing responsibilities. Patients receiving methadone must report in to a clinic each day and be observed taking their methadone medication. Buprenorphine-based products like Suboxone or Probuphine do not require the patient to report in daily to a clinic.

Buprenorphine is often taken orally as a tablet (Subutex) or thin film (Suboxone) where it is dissolved sublingually (under the tongue). Methadone is typically dispensed as a liquid that is swallowed. Probuphine (which contains buprenorphine) is a relatively new time-released medication that in inserted under the skin.

More information on this topic is available at SAMHSA and Methadone.US.