Last week, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) joined a bipartisan group of senators – led by U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) – in calling on the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to take further action to remove barriers to buprenorphine, a lifesaving drug used to treat opioid use disorder.
Specifically, the senators are urging the DEA to initiate a multi-agency evaluation of buprenorphine with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) to eliminate access gaps to the prescription drug to reduce overdose and death from opioid use disorder.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 106,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in the past year alone. Now more than ever, it is critical that the best treatments are made widely available and barriers to interventions are broken down,” the senators said.
The push from the senators comes as prescribers and patients across the country continue to report difficulty filling buprenorphine prescriptions, despite recent passage of the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 that increased the number of medical professionals authorized to prescribe buprenorphine.
“We recognize that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the DEA Diversion Control Division jointly published a Suspicious Orders Q&A on January 20, 2023, which explains that the agency does not place quantitative thresholds or limits on the amounts of controlled substances that a pharmacy can order. However, more is needed,” the senators continued. “Without formal guidance from the DEA, the absence of quantitative thresholds has created chilling effects on access to buprenorphine due to the perceived risks of crossing an undefined threshold by the DEA.”
The senators concluded, “The opioid epidemic remains one of the greatest public health crises our nation has ever faced. We must ensure the necessary resources and policies are in place so that every American who needs it can find treatment and lifesaving care.”
Senators Capito and Heinrich were joined in sending the letter by U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Angus King (I-Maine), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).
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