January 26, 2021
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it is pausing implementation of previously announced guidelines that would expand access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) by exempting physicians from certain certification requirements needed to prescribe buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorder. HHS, under the Trump administration, had previously announced on January 14, 2021, that new guidelines would be issued, but the Biden Administration wants to evaluate all regulatory actions that were taken in the last few weeks of the previous administration before they go into effect. The California Medical Association (CMA) and organized medicine are sending a joint letter to the Biden Administration requesting that this rule be allowed to move forward.
Under the previously announced guidelines—Practice Guidelines for the Administration of Buprenorphine for Treating Opioid Use Disorder— physicians would no longer have been required to obtain a special federal waiver to prescribe buprenorphine, which is used to treat patients with opioid use disorder. The exemption would have applied only applies to physicians treating patients in states where they are authorized to practice medicine. Physicians utilizing this exemption would have been limited to treating no more than 30 patients with buprenorphine for opioid use disorder at any one time.
CMA supports efforts to increase access to much-needed medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders. Across the country, many people suffering from opioid use disorder are unable to access medication-assisted treatment for their condition due to a lack of nearby physicians with waivers to prescribe buprenorphine.