There is a tragedy unfolding in Maine
A cost-cutting task force is considering a two-year limit on Medicaid coverage
for buprenorphine treatment for addiction which would force many current,
stable patients to taper off this lifesaving medication within 30 days. Maine’s
proposal is especially disturbing when you consider these two very important
news releases last month. First, the CDC reports prescription drug overdose
deaths are on the rise, with opioid painkiller overdoses accounting for 40 deaths
a day nationwide. Second, the largest study to date of Suboxone used for the
treatment of prescription drug addiction produced positive results. The study
clearly shows that when this effective treatment is discontinued, and thus no
longer suppressing the symptoms of addiction, symptoms return placing
patients at risk of death from overdose. This confirms that chronic treatment
may be appropriate for the chronic condition of addiction. These results will not
come as a surprise to medical professionals or patients involved with opioid
addiction or buprenorphine treatment, but appear to not even be a consideration
of Maine’s task force.
Dr. Mark Publicker, one of 245 Maine physicians who possess the credentials to
prescribe buprenorphine for addiction, warns that 90% of his patients will
relapse and a significant portion of them will die if Maine carries through and
cuts off Medicaid patients. The data supports his warning. The proposal being
considered will come into effect retroactively, forcing stable patients in sustained
addiction remission for two years or more to begin a 30 day taper.
This kneejerk reaction to cost
cutting ignores the evidence and
sets the stage for a human
disaster. Patients who have been
in treatment two years or more are
generally stable patients who are
benefiting immensely from the
treatment, living productive healthy
lives and contributing to society.
Many are parents who are able to
remain in addiction remission and
care for their children because of
Even if the task force ignores the human cost, which appears to be the case,
the fiscal cost of not treating addiction effectively will far outweigh the savings.
Untreated addiction costs society in many ways such as emergency room visits,
child services, unemployment compensation, welfare, food stamps, elevated
crime, and transmission of disease, i.e. HIV, HEP-C. Not to mention the loss of
productivity and tax contributions by those currently able to work because of the
treatment. Nobody benefits from cutting off this effective life-saving treatment. If
this tragedy is allowed to unfold it might set a precedent and be implemented in
more states across the country.
Click here to read more.
A hearing is scheduled for December 13th, 14th or 15th Voice your opinion or
support by contacting us at MakeContact@naabt.org
Correction and update
Update: The June 2011 newsletter “15 ways to save money on buprenorphine
treatment” has an update. The manufacturer’s copay card set to expire in
September, 2011, has been renewed and is now set to expire March 31, 2012.
Print out savings card here.
Correction: In item 11 of the 15 ways, it was originally stated that the DEA requires
in-person office visits every 6 months for schedule III drugs. This is an error as
there is no such regulation. The Controlled Substance Act allows for 5 refills within
a 6 month period for schedule III medications, but does not require in-person visits
to renew the prescription.