Treatment: Congress Lifts 30-Patient Limit for Buprenorphine Treatment 8/5/05

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Both houses of Congress have approved legislation that will expand the use of methadone substitute buprenorphine as a treatment for heroin and other opioid dependency. While use of buprenorphine to treat opiate addiction in the doctor's office was okayed in the Drug Addiction Treatment Act (DATA) of 2000, that act capped the number of patients a physician could treat at 30. But that same 30-patient limit was also applied to group medical practices, no matter how many doctors were part of the group. The bill passed by Congress lifts the limit on group practices.

Suboxone, a mixture of buprenorphine and naloxone
"Today's legislative action to amend DATA is a significant step forward for patients and their doctors," said Edwin A. Salsitz, MD, of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. "The 30-patient group practice limit, though well-intentioned, proved to be a safeguard that carried the unintended consequence of limiting patient access to treatment. Today's milestone reflects some very positive developments. It underscores the value of treatment with Suboxone (a mix of buprenorphine and naloxone, formulated to prevent abuse of the drug) for patients with the disease of opioid dependence, and highlights the need for office-based medical treatment options in this disease state."

Naturally enough, the move was greeted with enthusiasm by Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which manufactures Suboxone. Passage of the bill "will allow every qualified doctor within a group medical practice to prescribe Suboxone up to his or her individual physician limit of 30 patients," the company said. Group medical practices include large institutions such as hospitals and health-maintenance organizations, a Reckitt press release noted.

City health officials in New York City, home to about 20% of the nation's heroin addicts, were also pleased. The city health department estimates that only about a thousand people a month are currently getting the drug, but with the new legislation hopes to see that number climb to 100,000 -- half of the city's junkie population -- by the end of the decade.

Worth noting is the bill's sponsorship in the House. Pushing the bill in the lower chamber was none other than arch-drug warrior, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), who brought 44 co-sponsors on board. In the Senate, the measure was sponsored by heavy hitters including Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Joseph Biden (D-DE), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Richard Durbin (D-IL).

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Issue #398 -- 8/5/05

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Feature: Marc Emery Busted -- Canada's Leading Marijuana Activist Facing Life in American Prison Over Seed Sales | Feature: The Methamphetamine Epidemic -- Less Than Meets the Eye | Feature: Prison Protest Aiming for DC in Eight Days | Weekly: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Patriot Act: House Reauthorization Includes New "Narcoterrorism" Offense | Patriot Act: Sold as Fighting Terrorists, Act is Used in Marijuana-Smuggling Investigation | Search and Seizure: New Jersey Police Looking for Marijuana Growers Must Have Warrant to See Utility Records, Appeals Court Holds | Treatment: Congress Lifts 30-Patient Limit for Buprenorphine Treatment | Marijuana: Denver SAFER Initiative Headed for November Ballot | New Zealand: Parliament Reclassifies Speed and Ecstasy, Stiffer Penalties Coming | Treatment: New Web Site Provides Resources on Opiate Agonist Therapy | Weekly: This Week in History | Job Opportunity: Prevention Point Pittsburgh | Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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