Sens. Markey & Paul Joined by Bipartisan Group of Senators to Introduce Legislation to Expand Treatment for Heroin and Prescription Drug Addiction
TREAT Act would increase access to evidence-based medication-assisted treatment
Washington (May 27, 2015) – The nation is in the throes of a public health emergency that is resulting in nearly 25,000 deaths a year from opioid overdoses. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and a bipartisan group of their colleagues introduced new legislation, the Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment (TREAT) (S.1455), to expand specialized treatment for prescription drug and heroin addiction. The legislation would expand the ability of 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 drug addiction. Unfortunately, due in part to federal restrictions, of the approximately 2.4 million people dealing with prescription drug and heroin dependency in 2013, only half received specialty treatment for their condition.
“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. The TREAT Act will expand access to medical treatment that works, removing outdated limits on trained health professionals, allowing them to treat more patients and address this opiates crisis. I thank Senator Paul and my Senate colleagues for their partnership as we fight this battle of prescription drug and heroin addiction and reduce the tragic effect of this epidemic.”
“Heroin addiction is on the rise in Kentucky and throughout the country, and government’s solution of locking up people with addiction is not solving the problem. The TREAT Act will remove a roadblock to getting people the help they need to break the cycle of addiction and get on a path to recovery,” said Senator Paul.
Specifically, the TREAT Act would help increase the number of patients who have access to treatment by allowing substance abuse treatment specialists and certain other trained physicians who are practicing in a team-based facility that has built in quality measures to see a greater number of patients. Physicians under the bill are also required to fully participate in state-based prescription drug monitoring databases to track prescription drug use. The bill would also allow trained nurse practitioners and physician assistants to treat, for the first time, opioid dependent patients with approved medication assisted treatments. Combined with behavioral therapy, effective medication assisted treatment programs for opioid addiction can decrease overdose deaths, be cost-effective, reduce transmissions of HIV and hepatitis C, and reduce other social harms such as criminal activity. While emphasizing addiction medicine expertise and quality, the legislation lifts existing and arbitrary federal restrictions that are non-existent for any other disease and limit access to life saving therapies.
The TREAT Act is co-sponsored by Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai’i), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.). A companion bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) and John Katko (R-N.Y.).