Cash-only Suboxone clinics fuel fears of new ‘pill mills’

Summary and Analysis…

Concerns about diversion of Suboxone and other Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) drugs is a reality facing communities as they increase access to MAT. This article reports the real-world experience of both treatment providers and addicts, in effect delivering a caution to communities needing to better understand the effects associated with introducing MAT programs.

Excerpted from The Columbus Dispatch

The article covers trends that include diversion of Suboxone, a Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) drug, to illegal street use and the proliferation of Suboxone clinics that resemble the pill-mills that helped to instigate the opioid crisis. It notes that “some experts worry that too many of the state’s opioid-treatment clinics follow a business practice like that of the ‘pill mills’ that fueled the crisis: They deal in cash.”

Several addicts are quoted as citing the cash-benefits of getting Suboxone prescriptions and the article notes that “suboxone also is a popular street drug, one that state reports on drug-abuse trends say is ‘highly available for illicit use.'”

One former addict described the generally poor regulation of Suboxone prescription practices at some cash-only clinics and commented that they also offered cash incentives for bringing in new patients.

According to the article, a report published by the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network found that Suboxone clinics have “mushroomed.”

Another addict said that when he got his full 30-day prescription filled, which is a supply of 60 strips of Suboxone, “…he might keep back five for personal use. ‘Some people have kids, and that’s how they feed them,’ he said of Suboxone sales. ‘Me, I was just trying to feed my habit.'”

Dr. Jeannette Ann Moleski, a family based in in Hudson, Ohio, was quoted as saying that for many addicts “Their primary use is not ‘treatment’ but as a way to ward off symptoms of withdrawal until the next shipment of heroin or Fentanyl hits the streets.” Dr. Moleski has reduced her prescribing of Suboxone and recently delivered remarks to the Ohio Department of Medicaid that the medication “has become street currency.”

The article quotes yet another recovering addict as saying “I never really took the Suboxone I got, to be honest. With the cash, it’s just all messed up. Ever since I turned 18, that’s how I paid my bills.”