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Opioid Reform Policies

The increasing concerns over opioid epidemic have forced the US Health and Human Services (HHS) to implement several initiatives to stop the outbreak. Some of the new initiatives include expanding the access to buprenorphine, submitting a proposal to deny any financial incentive for medical practitioners who prescribe opioid drugs to patients based on experience survey questions, and making it obligatory for Indian Health Service prescribers and pharmacists to use state Prescription Drug Monitoring Program data before giving opioids to patients.

This announcement is the most recent development in the federal government’s National Pain Strategy, since HHS announced its Opioid Initiative campaign back in March 2015. The prime focus of the National Pain Strategy is to reduce the increased rate of opium abuse and to minimize overdose deaths in the United States.

“More Americans now die from drug overdoses than car crashes, and these overdoses have hit families from every walk of life and across our entire nation,” said Sylvia M. Burwell, HHS Secretary. “At HHS, we are helping to lead the nationwide effort to address the opioid epidemic by taking a targeted approach focused on prevention, treatment, and intervention. These actions build on this approach. However, if we truly want to turn the tide on this epidemic, Congress should approve the President’s $1.1 billion budget request for this work.”

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HHS also aims to expand the access and awareness about Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program though the Opioid Initiative. The MAT initiative uses buprenorphine, which is one of the best methods to cure opioid dependence, and is available as a long-term implant.

AMA President, Andrew W. Gurman, praised HHS’s decision and said, “Medication assisted treatment is proven effective, but for too long, too many patients have lacked access to this treatment. Today’s final rule is an important step that nearly triples the number of patients practitioners may treat with a waiver, but more must be done to leverage trained physicians to close the treatment gap.”