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Welcomed Change in OUD Treatment

Health & Life Sciences Ed Holloran, III

Doctor in hospital office prescribe prescription medication to patient who came to appointment. Control and monitoring of discharge of prescription drugs for pharmacotherapy pharmaceutical treatment

On January 14, 2021, the Trump administration announced a major shift in addiction medicine policy. Physicians now have dramatically more flexibility to prescribe a popular and effective drug used to treat opioid use disorder.

Previously, to prescribe the opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment, buprenorphine, a prescriber was required to obtain a license entitled an "X-waiver." The change will allow almost all physicians to prescribe the addiction drug buprenorphine, regardless of whether they have obtained a government waiver. Previously, to obtain an "X-waiver" prescribers had to undergo an eight-hour training for the "X-waiver" license, before they could prescribe buprenorphine. For years, addiction treatment advocates have argued that tight buprenorphine regulations prevent thousands of doctors from providing high-quality addiction care.

The announcement represents a dramatic change in addiction medicine during the final days of the Trump administration. Trump administration officials cited the huge rise in drug overdoses in recent years, especially in light of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic.

This new policy will allow any physician with a DEA prescriber license to treat up to 30 in-state patients with buprenorphine. Hospital-based physicians will be exempted from the 30-patient cap, and doctors can still treat up to 275 patients with the drug if they undergo the training and receive a separate waiver. This policy shift does not impact nurse practitioners or physician assistants, who will still need to apply for separate waivers to earn buprenorphine prescribing privileges.

For more information regarding the OUD policy change, please contact your Quarles & Brady attorney or: