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.

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.