Amendment would increase access to life-saving medication-assisted therapies for those battling prescription painkiller and heroin addiction


Washington (March 16, 2016) – The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee today unanimously passed a manager’s amendment introduced by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that would greatly expand access to treatment for opioid addiction. Originally introduced as bipartisan legislation called The Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment (TREAT) Act (S.1455), the amendment which passed committee today would expand the ability of opioid addiction medical specialists and other trained medical professionals to provide life-saving medication-assisted therapies such as buprenorphine (also called Suboxone) for patients battling heroin and prescription painkiller addiction.


“I thank Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray for their support crafting this amendment and their leadership in bringing it to the committee for a vote,” said Senator Markey. “We need to remove the barriers to effective treatment for opioid addiction, including outdated federal restrictions on medication-assisted therapies like buprenorphine. This treatment decreases overdose deaths, reduces transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C and saves lives.


“Unlike any other treatment regimen for any other disease, physicians are severely limited in the number of patients they can treat with medication-assisted therapies, contributing to long waitlists and the inability of patients to get treatment for their addiction when they need it. Approximately 2.5 million Americans who abused or were dependent on opioids in 2012, fewer than one million received treatment for their condition, partly because of these misguided federal restrictions.


“If we are going to reduce the supply for heroin and illicit prescription drugs we have to reduce the demand through treatment. I thank Senator Paul for his partnership on this effort, and I urge Senate leadership to bring this important legislation to the floor for a full Senate vote,” concluded Senator Markey.  


“All across Kentucky, I have heard time and time again from families and medical professionals how the federal government’s arbitrary patient caps are blocking access to effective and proven treatments for those who want help, and ultimately, harming both the addicted person and their loved ones,” said Senator Paul. “The TREAT Act will remove a roadblock to getting people the help they need to break the cycle of addition and get on a path to recovery.”


A copy of Senators Markey and Paul’s amendment can be found HERE.


Specifically, the amendment quintuples the maximum number of patients an eligible physician can treat with medication-assisted therapies from 100-500. The amendment also allows qualified nurse practitioners and physician assistants for the first time to provide buprenorphine treatment for addiction. Combined, these measures will help increase access to evidence based treatment and decrease long wait lists at treatment facilities. The amendment also requires reports to Congress on the effectiveness of the enacted law.