Addiction treatment to get a boost under new federal bill


In an effort to help get one of the nation’s most pressing epidemics under control, a new bill was introduced to the U.S. Senate Wednesday with the goal of changing federal restrictions that can get in the way of providing life-saving medication assisted therapies for patients who suffer from opioid addiction.

Despite the prevalence of this condition—more lives now are lost to overdoses than automobile collisions in the United States—fewer than 40 percent of the approximately 2.5 million people who abused or were dependent on opioids in 2012 received medication assisted therapy for their disease.

The Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act, also known as the TREAT Act, would increase the number of patients for whom physicians are allowed to prescribe treatment.

“The AMA supports a public health approach to addressing the prescription drug abuse epidemic that includes policies and strategies to provide treatment that promotes recovery for patients,” AMA President Robert M. Wah, MD, said in a news release. “Restricting access to certain prescription drugs for the patients who need them does not stop prescription drug abuse, diversion, overdose or death. In fact, it may lead patients to seek illegal drugs that are more dangerous and have no legitimate medical use.”

The TREAT Act, introduced by Sen. Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts, comes several months after the senator introduced the Opioid Overdose Reduction Act, which would protect trained individuals who administer opioid overdose prevention drugs, such as naloxone, from civil liability. Similar protections would apply to physicians who prescribe an opioid overdose reversal drug to a patient at risk of overdose or a third party, such as a family member.

Physicians can access online educational activities about medication assisted treatment, including patient education and overdose reversal drugs, free of charge through the Prescriber Clinical Support System for Opioid Therapy and the Providers’ Clinical Support System for Medication Assisted Treatment, groups of health care organizations led by the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry that received grant funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

In addition to its offerings through these clinical support collaborations, the AMA also offers a comprehensive continuing medical education series on pain management.