WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator and physician Rand Paul praised Senate passage today of the conference report on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), legislation that includes several provisions Dr. Paul has championed to expand access to treatment for those battling opioid addiction. The Senate approved CARA by a vote of 92-2, after the U.S. House of Representatives voted 407-5 to pass the legislation on Friday.
“In a time of deep partisan division, I applaud the U.S. Senate for coming together to do the right thing by ensuring Kentucky families and other Americans devastated by opioid addiction receive the treatment they need to heal,” said Dr. Paul. “As the lead Republican sponsor of the TREAT Act, I have worked with Senator Markey and a bipartisan coalition to speak up for those denied help by arbitrary federal interference. Today’s victory is an encouraging sign of what we can accomplish when we decide to get Washington out of the American people’s way. I urge the President to quickly sign the bill into law.”
Today’s passage marks the second major step in a week toward unshackling doctors to help more patients break free of their opioid addiction. 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.