Coronavirus Crisis Spurs Access To Online Treatment For Opioid Addiction

Summary and Analysis…

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government is loosening regulations concerning requirements for in-person visit before a physician can prescribe drugs such as Suboxone. According to the article, some addiction advocates have called for such a change in regulations and are calling for it to continue after the coronavirus crisis.

While the change makes sense given the current restrictions imposed by social distancing, opening access to opioids historically comes with unintended consequences. Suboxone, for example, has a significant track record of diversion. Additionally, medication without associated support and recovery services is an incomplete solution.

This isn’t to say that Suboxone shouldn’t be used, but rather that it should not be viewed as a silver bullet and can’t be dispensed in a vacuum. The true test of the policy shift will not be in the number of Suboxone prescriptions (or other medications) written, but in the final tally of how many of those prescriptions were diverted and and the number of individuals with addiction problems who make it into successful long term recovery.

Excerpted from NPR

Opioid addiction isn’t taking a break during the coronavirus pandemic. But the U.S. response to the viral crisis is making addiction treatment easier to get.

Under the national emergency declared by the Trump administration in March, the government has suspended a federal law that required patients to have an in-person visit with a physician before they could be prescribed drugs that help quell withdrawal symptoms, such as Suboxone. Patients can now get those prescriptions via a phone call or videoconference with a doctor.

Addiction experts have been calling for that change for years to help expand access for patients in many parts of the country that have shortages of physicians eligible to prescribe these medication-assisted treatments. A federal report in January found that 40% of U.S. counties don’t have a single health care provider approved to prescribe buprenorphine, an active ingredient in Suboxone.

While telemedicine has been growing in popularity for physical medicine, some people may still be reluctant to use it for drug addiction.

There are also concerns that allowing providers to prescribe controlled substances without meeting patients in person could increase the risk of fraud.