Senators introduced legislation – the TREAT Act – to expand life-saving medication-assisted therapies for those battling prescription opioid and heroin addiction
Washington (July 12, 2016) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Congressional leaders in the effort to expand medication-assisted therapies for opioid addiction, today praised inclusion of a provision to expand access to these life-saving treatments in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). The provision, which mirrors a proposal originally introduced in the Senators’ The Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment (TREAT) Act (S.1455), would for the first time allows trained nurse practitioners and physicians assistants to provide life-saving medication-assisted therapies such as buprenorphine (also called Suboxone).
“If we are going to reduce the supply for heroin and illicit prescription drugs we have to reduce the demand through treatment,” said Senator Markey. “Currently, because of outdated federal restrictions, effective medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction has been severely limited. By allowing nurse practitioners and physicians assistants to treat patients with these life-saving therapies, we can help prevent opioid overdoses and give hope to the millions of Americans who are struggling everyday with addiction. This is an important step in helping to reduce long waitlists and the inability of patients to get treatment in Massachusetts communities when and where they need it.
“I thank Senator Paul for his partnership in this effort, and I thank Senators Murray and Alexander, and Reps. Pallone and Upton who helped to get this provision included in the final legislation. I will continue to work to pass legislation that would make nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other trained medical professionals a permanent part of the opioid treatment workforce.”
“Counterproductive rules decreed by Washington, D.C. prevent far too many of those battling opioid addiction from obtaining proper treatment,” said Dr. Paul. “Kentuckians have been especially hit hard by this epidemic, and I’m pleased to see Congress finally take many of the common-sense steps Senator Markey and I have been advocating for through the TREAT Act to provide help to those fighting for their lives. I urge the Senate to follow the House’s lead by passing CARA right away.”
In April 2016, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee advanced S.1455, TREAT Act, which was originally introduced by Senators Markey and Paul in 2015 and negotiated with HELP leadership prior to its passage. In addition to raising the maximum cap for physicians from 100 to 500 patients, the TREAT Act also authorized nurse practitioners and physicians assistants to provide medication assisted treatment for opioid use disorders in accordance with state law.
As part of the bipartisan and bicameral conference on a series of opioid bills known as the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), provisions of the TREAT Act were incorporated into the final conference report. These provisions allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants who are trained and who meet other criteria to obtain a federal license for providing buprenorphine therapy. However, the ability of nurse practitioners and physicians assistants to participate expires in 2021 under the CARA bill. Last week, the Obama administration responded to Senators Markey, Paul and other lawmakers by finalizing a rulemaking to raise the limit on number of patients physicians can treat with buprenorphine therapy from 100 to 275, a good step toward satisfying the other main tenant of the TREAT Act.