Biden-Harris Administration Eases Some Opioid Treatment Restrictions

The Biden administration confirmed this week that pandemic-era regulations that facilitated patients’ access to treatment for opioid addiction will remain in place indefinitely.

The US government has revised the regulations governing clinics that offer medication-assisted therapy for opioid use disorder for the first time in 20 years with these modifications.

Years into the nation’s opioid crisis, only about 1 in 5 people with opioid addiction received medication to treat it in 2021.

The finalized policy will allow patients to take home doses of the opioid addiction treatment methadone. Patients will also be able to start on methadone or buprenorphine, another opioid addiction treatment medication, via telehealth.

Before the pandemic, patients taking methadone had to go in person to an opioid treatment clinic each day to receive treatment. Those rules were relaxed during the pandemic to help reduce infection risk.

Federal health officials cited reports that those flexibilities increased treatment and patients’ satisfaction with their care without notable increases in diversion of methadone, which itself is an opioid.

The policies could especially help people in rural areas, where providers are in short supply.

The rule ends a requirement that patients have a yearlong history of opioid misuse before getting admitted to an opioid treatment clinic.

In states where state laws permit it, it also enables nurse practitioners and physician assistants to order drugs for opioid use disorders.

Legislators disagree on the specifics of a government funding bill that could pass in March, but they are debating whether to expand addiction treatment.

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