Policy

What Can Pennsylvania Learn from the Opioid Epidemic?

   

May 12, 2022

It’s the worst part of my job as an emergency physician: witnessing how the pandemic has widened gaps in care for people struggling with substance use disorders (SUD). These gaps have resulted in thousands more overdose deaths since 2020. But that’s population data; there’s only one real statistic to the parents of a young adult suffering an accidental fentanyl overdose. “Accidental” refers to unpreventable, like a tsunami, and overdoses are preventable. If only my patients had been able to access care while in the chaos of addiction.

On April 12, 2022, the Pennsylvania House Health Committee hosted a public hearing on opioids in the commonwealth. The goals were to update lawmakers on the challenges of the rising death rate from fentanyl and other synthetic substances and to encourage clinicians, advocates, and state leadership to advance possible solutions. My testimony at this public hearing focused on the need to expand (1) low-barrier treatment access (via emergency department [EDs], peer-led engagement, and telehealth) and (2) harm reduction strategies (via naloxone, fentanyl test strips, and syringe service programs).

Multiple studies, including randomized controlled trials, have demonstrated the efficacy of medication-for opioid use disorder (MOUD); buprenorphine, especially, is arguably a more effective treatment for SUD than aspirin is for heart disease. Unfortunately, medications are underutilized due to provider- and patient-level barriers to treatment access that foil the best intentions. Appointments, insurance, transportation, and pharmacies can all stand in the way of the first dose of this life-saving medication.

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New policy will let nearly all doctors prescribe addiction medicine buprenorphine

BIDEN EASES PRESCRIPTION RESTRICTIONS ON OPIOID TREATMENT  The Biden administration will make it easier for doctors and nurses to prescribe buprenorphine, a common opioid addiction treatment, months after scrapping a last-minute Trump-era policy similarly aimed at expanding access.

A new notice released by the Administration today  exempts many health care providers from a two-decade-old rule mandating they receive one day’s training before they could prescribe the treatment.

The federal government closely monitors providers’ prescriptions of buprenorphine because it’s one of the only drugs in the country that has a patient cap. Drug treatment advocates have long argued the requirements around buprenorphine prescriptions were improper given the scope of the drug crisis.

Some drug policy groups had pushed the administration to eliminate all restrictions on buprenorphine prescribing, but Tom Coderre, acting assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, told reporters that would require an act of Congress.

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Ending the Opioid and Overdose Crisis, Four Federal Policy Recommendations

March 2021

Download the Policy Brief from Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics & Center for Addiction Medicine and Policy 

 

Senator Patrick Toomey leads discussion with experts about Opioid Use Disorder

"These Key Telehealth Policy Changes Would Improve Buprenorphine Access While Advancing Health Equity"

Supervised Injection Facilities and Other Supervised Consumption Sites: Effectiveness and Value