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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Senators Seek to Loosen Restrictions On Buprenorphine

English: Suboxone tablet - both sides.
Federal officials are being urged to loosen restrictions on buprenorphine, more commonly prescribed as Suboxone (a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone), for the treatment of heroin and prescription opioid addiction, reports the Associated Press. Two U.S. senators are fighting for increased access to the drug which has shown some promising results with regard to opiate detox as well as long term maintenance.

Unlike methadone which has to be distributed to patients via special daily clinics, buprenorphine can be prescribed by a doctor for take home use. However, after a decade since the drug was approved there are still tight restrictions on how much buprenorphine a doctor can prescribe as well as a limit on the number of patients a single doctor can treat with the medication, according to the article.

“We’ve heard remarkable stories of success with buprenorphine treatment, of lives saved and families rebuilt from the ravages of addiction,” Senator Carl Levin of Michigan said in a news release. “But we have also heard stories of frustration at the fact that many patients want this treatment but can’t get it, and we need to remove those hurdles.”

There are a number federal officials and addiction experts who are against raising the patient limit due to the potential for abusing buprenorphine. Some argue that raising the limit on patients may lead to buprenorphine “pill mills.”

The Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow, said that in Europe, where buprenorphine is more available, overdoses on the drug are common.

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