FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 10, 2022
Contact: Press_Paul@paul.senate.gov, 202-224-4343
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) introduced the Opioid Treatment Access Act to improve access to life-saving methadone treatment for opioid-use disorder (OUD). The legislation would revise outdated regulations on methadone treatment for opioid-use disorder (OUD) by reducing the time in treatment required for patients to receive take-home doses of medication and allowing pharmacies to dispense methadone for OUD treatment for the first time. The bill also would codify a recent federal regulation allowing opioid treatment programs (OTPs) to add mobile treatment clinics and require the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to study existing regulatory flexibilities on accessing treatment for OUD.
“As a physician, I know the value of the doctor-patient relationship. This bipartisan legislation will return treatment decisions to health care providers, who know their patients best. Doing so will be another important step toward combating the opioid epidemic that has caused so much harm in Kentucky and our nation,” said Dr. Paul.
“Opioid-related overdoses and deaths are the public health epidemic we aren’t talking about. It’s never been more important to modernize and expand how patients receive opioid treatment,” said Senator Markey. “By decentralizing opioid treatment, making permanent expanded access to take home methadone, and allowing access to this life-saving treatment at pharmacies, we can expand access, create opportunity, and set more people on a pathway to recovery. This legislation will help break down barriers to treatment, reduce interruption of patients’ work and family lives, destigmatize opioid-use disorder, and save lives.”
Representative Donald Norcross (NJ-01) introduced the Opioid Treatment Access Act in the House of Representatives in December 2021.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, federal regulations required patients to make daily trips to opioid treatment clinics in order to receive doses of methadone. This process increased the stigma associated with methadone treatment and placed unnecessary burdens on patients. By expanding take-home doses and allowing pharmacy dispensing of methadone, the Opioid Treatment Access Act would make it easier for patients who work, have kids, or live far from opioid treatment programs to adhere to treatment regimens and stay in recovery.
The bipartisan Opioid Treatment Access Act would modernize and improve the process of obtaining methadone for opioid-use disorder (OUD) treatment by:
- Building on SAMHSA’s COVID-19 exemptions that allow patients to receive longer take-home supplies of methadone;
- Allowing pharmacies to dispense methadone to OTP patients, rather than requiring patients to travel to clinics;
- Directing SAMHSA to conduct a full study on the impact of the COVID-19 methadone exemptions; and
- Codifying regulations that allow OTPs to operate mobile medication components without separate DEA registrations.
In March 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, SAMHSA eased restrictions on opioid treatment programs to allow providers to prescribe longer supplies of take-home methadone to patients in treatment. According to preliminary studies, and feedback from patients and providers, this change increased patient engagement in treatment with minimal incidents of misuse or diversion of methadone.
A copy of the bill text can be found HERE.