WASHINGTON — As the heroin and opioid epidemic spreads through communities across the United States, Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, will hold a forum on Wednesday to discuss opioid addiction, focusing on the use of buprenorphine to help combat opioid abuse and the obstacles that have prevented even more patients from getting buprenorphine treatment.
The senators have heard from many physicians who have said that buprenorphine has been highly successful in treating patients with heroin and opioid addiction, but the doctors stress that many more patients could benefit from the medication. The senators will hear from health professionals who will share their thoughts on addressing the impediments that have hindered the treatment of more patients, including patient limits imposed on doctors, waiting lists, costs, and shortage of certified doctors. They will discuss proposals that could help expand access to treatment.
Participants in the forum include Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse; Westley Clark, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at SAMHSA; Elinore McCance-Katz, SAMHSA’s chief medical officer; Michael Botticelli, acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy; Andrew Kolodny, chief medical officer of Phoenix House; Colleen LaBelle, program director State OBOT B and Boston Medical Center; John Kitzmiller, a physician and certified buprenorphine provider from Lake Orion, Mich.; and other physicians, addiction experts, and buprenorphine patients.
Levin and Hatch have long been involved in the effort to expand buprenorphine treatment. The senators sponsored a 2000 law, the Drug Addiction Treatment Act, which made it legal for physicians to prescribe buprenorphine in their offices, and the FDA approved its use in 2002.
DATA 2000 established a 30-patient limit for doctors, however, which experts later found to unduly limit access to the medication. Levin and Hatch held a 2006 forum to examine the patient limit, and they subsequently authored successful legislation to raise the limit to 100 patients.