WASHINGTON, D.C.— To address the severe opioid abuse epidemic in the United States, U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, along with a group of their colleagues, have written to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Sylvia Burwell, urging her to increase access to treatment for prescription pain addiction.
Although effective medications to treat opioid use disorders exist today, federal regulations continue to limit access to some life-saving treatments. Chief among these effective treatments is medication-assisted therapy (MAT). Alarmingly, only 10 percent of the 23 million Americans with addiction and substance use disorders receive any care in a given year.
In their letter, the Senators stated: “Numerous studies have shown that MAT is cost effective, reduces drug use, disease rates, overdose risk and criminal activity among opioid addicted persons…Despite the effectiveness of MAT as one of the tools available to treat opioid addiction, there is significant under-treatment with this proven therapy.”
Specifically, the use of MAT “is highly controlled” and current law arbitrarily “caps the number of addicted patients a physician can treat at any one time.” To remedy this disparity, HHS has the authority under the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000, to increase access to MATs for the treatment of opioid use disorders. As outlined in the Senators’ letter, raising the “prescriber caps” for “highly effective MAT medications” would enable “physicians to treat more patients…and improve and increase access to quality and comprehensive opioid treatment programs.”
Senators Collins and King view this action as “an important part of larger collaborative efforts between the Congress and the Administration to address substance abuse disorders.”
Click here for a PDF of the letter.