In an August letter to HHS, bipartisan group of lawmakers urged agency to increase access to specialized treatment


Washington (September 17, 2015) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) applauded the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for its announcement today that it is taking steps to revise the regulations related to the prescribing of buprenorphine-containing products approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment of opioid dependence. In August, a bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter to HHS urging the agency to use its full authority to raise the cap on the number of patients that a physician can treat with medication-assisted therapies, including buprenorphine. Despite studies showing medication-assisted therapies to be highly effective, there is significant under-treatment due to federal limitations. In 2012, of the 2.5 million Americans who abused or were dependent on opioids, fewer than one million received medication-assisted therapy.


“When effective medication-assisted treatment is made available, people’s lives can be saved,” said Senator Markey. “Treatment for prescription drug and heroin addiction should not be harder to access than the actual drugs destroying lives and communities. I commend HHS for taking steps to address outdated limits on trained professionals providing this effective treatment so we can help more people who need it and for its commitment to ensure access is balanced with reducing the risk of diversion. I look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Burwell in efforts to address this terrible epidemic of prescription drug and heroin addiction.”


“As an author of the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 and subsequent legislation that shaped the structure under which physicians prescribe buprenorphine, I am keenly interested in ensuring patients have access to the treatments they need to succeed in their battle against heroin and prescription drug addiction,” said Senator Hatch. “Providers and patients in Utah and throughout the country report that the demand for medication-assisted treatment is outpacing its supply. I am encouraged by today’s announcement from Secretary Burwell and look forward to collaborating with the administration as they update the current regulation around buprenorphine.”


“This is an important step for the alarming number of Americans facing opioid addiction,” said Senator Brown. “When used in combination with counseling and therapy, medication-assisted treatment of opioid abuse can help individuals overcome addition. Today’s announcement is a relief for communities in Ohio and across the country where opioid abuse has ruined lives and torn apart families. This revision will save lives and give the health community access to more effective treatment options.”


“Increasing access to proven treatment methods—like medication-assisted treatment—for individuals suffering from a substance use disorder is a key component in the fight against opioid abuse,” said Senator Ayotte.  “I’m pleased that HHS has announced that it will revise arbitrary regulations that are currently limiting access to medication-assisted treatment for those who have an opioid use disorder.”


“With someone dying of a heroin overdose every three days on average in the Chicago suburbs, federal regulations should not stand in the way of doctors using the most effective methods to treat addiction,” said Senator Kirk. “This much-needed policy change expanding the use of medication-assisted therapy to treat opioid addiction will help save lives.”


“With heroin and opioid use on the rise, why wouldn’t we do everything we could to give healthcare providers access to life-saving drugs and therapies?” said Senator Durbin. “I am glad to see the Department of Health and Human Services answering that call today by expanding the use of medication-assisted therapy and providing additional training and resources to the first-responders who are on the frontline of this crisis.”


A copy of the Senators’ August letter to HHS can be found HERE.