AG Jeff Landry urges extented ability for telehealth doctors to prescribe opioid use disorder treatment

Opioids (Source: WAFB)
Opioids (Source: WAFB)
Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 10:56 AM CST
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The following is a press release from the Office of Louisiana Attorney Jeff Landry

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and 44 other state attorneys general are urging the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to permanently extend telehealth flexibilities for prescribing buprenorphine, an opioid use disorder treatment.

Buprenorphine is one of three medications that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat patients suffering from addiction. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA allowed doctors to use telehealth services to prescribe the medication; but the rule allowing buprenorphine to be prescribed virtually is set to expire once the COVID-19 public health emergency ends.

”The opioid epidemic has destroyed communities across Louisiana and the country,” said Attorney General Landry. “As we continue to hold those that proliferated the epidemic accountable, we must also ensure those suffering from substance abuse disorder have efficient access to treatment.”

Our State and our Nation are in the grips of an opioid epidemic, with more than 100,000 Americans dying due to overdose last year alone. Attorney General Landry has been on the front lines fighting the crisis to protect Louisianans and Americans from deadly synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Interdiction efforts alone will not end the crisis; therefore, Attorney General Landry and his colleagues are urging for this buprenorphine treatment to remain easily available for those in need.

As a condition of the COVID-19 public health emergency, in March 2020, the DEA allowed audio-visual telemedicine services to prescribe all Schedule II-V controlled substances – including buprenorphine. Without the proposed permanent extension, the current expiration of the public health emergency could cut off an estimated 2.5 million American adults who utilize the opioid use disorder treatment.

In a letter to top DEA and SAMHSA officials, Attorney General Landry and the other state chief legal officers highlight how the existing flexibilities are critical to linking individuals with opioid use disorder to care: “The number of patients receiving buprenorphine as treatment…increased significantly when telehealth flexibilities were allowed…it also improved retention in care and reduced the odds of overdose for individuals prescribed buprenorphine via telehealth for opioid use disorder treatment.”

The current allowance for telehealth services also expands access of buprenorphine to patients who may have previously struggled to receive the medication. Attorney General Landry and his colleagues noted, “An estimated 28 million Americans live more than 10 miles and about three million live over 30 miles from a buprenorphine provider. Today, the delivery of care for buprenorphine treatment has shifted significantly to telehealth, making it more accessible than ever for individuals to access the treatment they need.”

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