A group of five U.S. senators recently urged the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ensure opioid-use-disorder (OUD) patients have access to life-saving medication-assisted treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter to SAMHSA Assistant Secretary Elinore McCance-Katz and HHS Secretary Alex Azar, the senators asserted that patients suffering from OUD are in danger of treatment interruptions and face barriers to treatment during the pandemic. Patients are at risk for relapse, overdose, and overdose death, because many physicians who prescribe medication-assisted treatment may be unavailable.
The senators asked the agencies to increase the number of patients a physician is authorized to treat with buprenorphine from 275 to 500, and to process requests for emergency patient-limit increases.
“You can and should take immediate action to ensure that patients with OUD are not denied the medication they need, do not exacerbate the strain on our nation’s emergency departments and hospitals, and, most importantly, are not added to the COVID-19 death count,” the letter said. “We must empower our heroic health care providers to treat and save as many lives as possible in this time of crisis.”
The letter was signed by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).