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Experts Discussed Expanding Buprenorphine Access at Senate Forum

Monday, June 23rd, 2014
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Senator Carl Levin

At a Senate forum on June 18, Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich, and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, gathered leaders in addiction treatment to strategize steps to increase accessibility of buprenorphine, a medication that has been used successfully to treat opioid addiction.

The experts addressed the problem that only a small percentage of eligible doctors are certified to prescribe buprenorphine, and those with certification are limited to prescribing to 100 patients at any given time. As a result, many people struggling with this disease are unable to access the treatment they need.

Nina Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, called for more exposure to addiction education in medical school to encourage doctors to seek buprenorphine certification. In addition, Phoenix House’s own Chief Medical Officer Andrew Kolodny, M.D., pointed out that there is no prescribing limitation on painkillers like OxyContin—a highly addictive opioid that leads many Americans on the path to heroin in the first place.

“A medicine to treat opioid addiction should not be harder to access than the medicines causing this disease,” Dr. Kolodny said.

Other panelists included Michael Botticelli, acting director for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy; Dr. Westley Clark, director for the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment; and Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, chief medical officer of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; along with physicians and patients.

You can view the full forum on Senator Levin’s YouTube channel.

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