WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator and physician Rand Paul called on the U.S. Senate to help more Kentuckians and other Americans struggling with opioid addiction find healing by passing the conference report on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved CARA by a wide bipartisan majority of 407-5, with the legislation containing several proposals that Dr. Paul has long been fighting for as lead Republican sponsor of the TREAT Act.
“Counterproductive rules decreed by Washington, D.C. prevent far too many of those battling opioid addiction from obtaining proper treatment,” said Dr. Paul. “Kentuckians have been especially hit hard by this epidemic, and I’m pleased to see Congress finally take many of the common-sense steps Senator Markey and I have been advocating for through the TREAT Act to provide help to those fighting for their lives. I urge the Senate to follow the House’s lead by passing CARA right away.”
“I thank Senator Paul for his partnership in this effort,” said Senator Markey, “and I thank Senators Murray and Alexander, and Reps. Pallone and Upton who helped to get these provisions included in the final legislation. I will continue to work to pass legislation that would make nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other trained medical professionals a permanent part of the opioid treatment workforce.”
Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it would extend the cap on the number of patients to whom a doctor can prescribe buprenorphine, a key component in Suboxone, from the current 100-patient barrier to 275 patients. Dr. Paul had earlier joined a bipartisan group of senators in asking HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell to raise the cap to the 500-patient level contained in the TREAT Act after learning HHS was planning to extend the cap to only 200 patients.
Now, the CARA conference report would further implement the principles contained in TREAT by expanding the number of providers who can administer treatment, allowing HHS Secretary Burwell to authorize in-office treatment that excludes patients from the cap, and giving states greater flexibility in adjusting their own patient caps.
Below is a summary of TREAT Act provisions included in the CARA conference report:
o Allows nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) to prescribe buprenorphine to treat patients with opioid addiction for the first time, through 2021, following completion of addiction-treatment education.
o Seeks to provide patients with the opportunity to access the full range of available treatment options for their addiction treatment by ensuring providers are educated in addiction medicine and have the capacity to provide, either directly or by referral, all drugs approved by the FDA for the treatment of opioid use disorder and any necessary counseling or ancillary services.
o Allows the Secretary to exclude patients from the cap if they are given long-acting versions of buprenorphine that are administered in a physician’s office and not distributed to the patient for at-home use, therefore putting them at a low risk for diversion.
o Grants states the flexibility to adjust their total cap numbers within the parameters set in federal law.