Overly Strict Laws And Regulatory Policies Pose Barriers To Treatment Access

"Stringent laws and regulatory policies pose substantial barriers to methadone and buprenorphine access. Laws and regulatory requirements restrict outpatient methadone treatment to state- and federally certified OTPs, which is detrimental to long-term treatment adherence for many patients. Unlike methadone, buprenorphine is approved to be prescribed in officebased settings, but only by providers who undergo specialized training and obtain a waiver from the Drug Enforcement Administration. Few providers in the United States have such waivers (estimated at less than 3 percent), and additional regulations limit the number of patients that each provider can treat with medication. To compound the problem, most waivered providers prescribe buprenorphine at well below the capacity they are allowed. These policies are not supported by evidence, nor are such strict regulations imposed on access to life-saving medications for other chronic diseases.

"The system of care delivery for OUD is fragmented and poorly integrated into the broader health system in the United States. Treatment settings and financing streams for SUDs are generally detached from primary care, further obstructing access to medications for OUD, especially among people with other co-occurring conditions. Many providers are reluctant to treat people with OUD because they do not receive timely and sufficient reimbursement by public and private insurance coverage, which often limits or excludes evidence-based medication treatment services for OUD. These barriers are compounded by other restrictions, such as prior authorization policies, dose limitations or forced dose tapers, counseling requirements, and annual or lifetime limits on the amount of OUD medication a person can receive. Almost half of nonelderly adults with OUD are covered by Medicaid, which has been shown to help connect people with medicationbased treatment for OUD and to improve treatment retention. However, Medicaid coverage for OUD medications varies widely by state, with some states excluding methadone and buprenorphine entirely."

Source: 

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Health Sciences Policy; Committee on Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder; Mancher M, Leshner AI, editors. Medications for Opioid Use Disorder Save Lives. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); March 30, 2019.