Last week I attended the ASAM State of the Art in Addiction Medicine Conference in Washington and one of the speakers was Gil Kerlikowske director of the ONDCP
(Office of National Drug Control Policy). After his talk on the
successes of the white house’s program, and the promise of the “2011 National drug control strategy”
he was asked about elimination of the 30/100 patient limit plaguing
buprenorphine providers, their patients and their loved ones. This was
the only question of the conference met with spontaneous applause. Mr.
Kerlikowske was caught by surprise and admitted he was completely
uninformed about a limit, and gave no indication that he even knew
anything about the legislation pertaining to buprenorphine. This is
alarming in light of the new CDC report
showing 40 people a day die from prescription opioid overdose, 15,000 a
year (in 2008). Meanwhile, patients are being denied lifesaving
treatment due to effective rationing of care through government imposed
patient caps. A search of the ONDCP website shows ZERO results for a
“Suboxone” or “Subutex” and only two mentions of “buprenorphine” which
were only incidental mentions and not about buprenorphine.
Here’s what the National drug control strategy claims to be about; From the White House ONDCP website: 2011 National Drug Control Strategy
…Building on the Obama Administration's inaugural Strategy, released last year, the 2011 National Drug Control Strategy serves as the Nation's blueprint for reducing drug use and its consequences. Continuing our collaborative, balanced, and science-based approach, the 2011 National Drug Control Strategy emphasizes drug prevention and early intervention programs in healthcare settings, diverting non-violent drug offenders into treatment instead of jail, funding more scientific research on drug use, expanding access to substance abuse treatment, and supporting those in recovery….
Yet, no mention of the most significant development in the
last 50 years for the treatment of opioid addiction anywhere on the
site, and apparently no awareness of the significant limits to access of
this important substance abuse treatment, buprenorphine. How can expanding access to substance abuse treatment
be the strategy while completely omitting the most effective treatment?
How could someone whose full time job is related to substance abuse
treatments be unaware of the significant limitations to access facing
people seeking buprenorphine treatment? I’m amazed and disappointed,
especially when the limit could be removed tomorrow with a signature
from the Secretary of Health and Human Services. But instead another 40
people will die tomorrow from opioid overdose, some of whom would have
been saved if they had access to buprenorphine treatment.
NAABT.org is collecting letters and email testimonials from people affected by the government imposed limit on saving lives. If limited access to buprenorphine treatment has impacted you please write to us and tell us your story. The letters will be made public, and presented to Congress and the administration, so conceal your identity if you want to maintain anonymity. Go to https://www.naabt.org/contact_us.cfm to submit or mail your testimonial. We can end this obstacle to care, but we need your help.