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HHS raises patient limit physicians can treat for opioid use disorders

The rule aims to increase access to medication-assisted treatment and associated behavioral health supports for patients.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, announced a new rule that will increase the number of patients that qualified physicians who prescribe buprenorphine for opioid use disorders can treat.

Doctors who are licensed to prescribe buprenorphine will be allowed to treat up to 275 patients a year, up from the current limit of 100. HHS estimates this action may provide 70,000 more people access to the drug, NPR reported.

When Congress passed legislation in 2000 that allowed specially trained physicians to provide office-based buprenorphine treatment, it also capped the number of patients a doctor could treat with the medication, according to NPR.

“Clinics throughout the country, particularly in urban areas, have had long lists of people waiting to receive buprenorphine. Additional prescribers and access to behavioral health treatment is key in helping those individuals who struggle with opioid use disorder,” William Morrone, DO, the president of the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM), said in a statement.

The new rule also revised the qualifications for the higher limit to include board certification in addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry from the American Board of Addiction Medicine or the American Board of Medical Specialties, or certifications by the AOAAM or the American Society of Addiction Medicine, according to the AOAAM’s statement.

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