Wednesday, July 6, 2016

HHS Announces Series of Actions to Expand Opioid Treatment, Reduce Misuse

Expanded access to buprenorphine treatment, proposed elimination of a possible financial incentive to overprescribe opioids, and a requirement for Indian Health Service practitioners to check state Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) databases were among the actions taken today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to address the opioid epidemic in this country.

The department also announced the start of “more than a dozen” new research studies on pain treatment and opioid misuse. Additionally, it will compile an inventory of the research being conducted or funded by HHS agencies.

Also issued today was a final rule that will expand access to buprenorphine treatment by increasing from 100 to 275 the number of patients a qualified physician can treat. Addiction specialists and those who practice in a qualified health setting will be eligible for the higher patient limit.

“We welcome the final rule raising the cap on buprenorphine patients because it balances the needs for access to quality care and safety,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “APA had provided feedback to SAMHSA, and we are encouraged that the agency followed the spirit of our recommendations.”

The American Academy of Addiction Medicine and the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine also contributed to the feedback given to SAMHSA.

The government will also eliminate use of Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey questions on pain as a criterion for Medicare payment. Hospitals will still ask patients about pain management but the answers won’t affect payments.

“We will continue to work with our members and partner medical societies to curb the opioid epidemic, and we applaud the steps taken by the administration,” said Levin.

Detailed coverage of the HHS actions and the final rule will appear in a future issue of Psychiatric News. A summary of federal opioid research by the Department of Health and Human Services is posted here


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