Washington (February 1, 2024) - Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chair of the Primary Health and Retirement Security Subcommittee of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released the following statement after the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced a final rule to comprehensively update regulations governing Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs), the first substantial updates to regulations governing methadone access in more than 20?years. In March 2023, Senator Markey led a bicameral letter to SAMHSA expressing support for regulations that would expand access to Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) medication treatment, including methadone, while highlighting barriers that continue to confront those seeking access to methadone medication treatment under SAMHSA’s rules.

“While I am grateful to the Biden administration for taking an essential step forward to improve access to methadone, the fentanyl crisis and opioid epidemic demand that we do more. This rule is limited only to opioid treatment programs, exacerbating an inexplicable, two-tiered system that allows health providers in an opioid treatment program to prescribe and provide methadone for opioid use disorder while still prohibiting board certified addiction medicine and psychiatry physicians in a hospital or medical practice from doing the same. It makes no sense to expand access to methadone access in one established setting but restrict it in another, trusted one.

“Ultimately, tethering methadone exclusively to opioid treatment programs is less about access, or health and safety, but about control, and for many investors in those programs, it is about profit. The longer we leave this antiquated system in place, the more lives we lose. We must put people first, unwind outdated laws, and treat methadone like the life-saving medication it is. We must pass my bipartisan Modernizing Opioid Treatment Access Act now.

In March 2023, Senators Markey and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), along with Representatives Donald Norcross (NJ-01) and Don Bacon (NE-02), introduced their bipartisan and bicameral Modernizing Opioid Treatment Access Act. In December 2022, Senator Markey secured his bipartisan Opioid Treatment Access Act (OTAA)—legislation that reduces wait times for patients qualifying for methadone medication treatment and expands access to methadone clinics—into the end-of-year omnibus spending package. That same month, Senator Markey also applauded proposed changes by the Department of Health and Human Services to remove barriers to OUD treatment, such as allowing people to take home doses of methadone medication, which are key provisions included in the OTAA.