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HHS Relaxes Regulations Around Prescribing Opioid Addiction Drug Buprenorphine

January 22, 2021

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CONTACTS
Gayle Lee, Director, Physician Payment & Quality

In an effort to help address the opioid crisis, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued new guidelines on Jan. 14 that relax requirements around prescribing the opioid addiction medication buprenorphine to patients.

The guidelines eliminate the federal requirement that physicians must take an eight-hour training course to obtain an “x-waiver“ from the Drug Enforcement Administration to prescribe buprenorphine. Many groups, including the AAMC, have advocated for the elimination of the x-waiver requirement because it has been a significant barrier to prescribing buprenorphine; removing the x-waiver requirement will enable better access to the drug, which can save lives [see Washington Highlights, June 5, 2020].

Some restrictions will continue to apply around prescribing buprenorphine: Physicians without x-waivers may only treat patients in the states in which they are licensed, physicians using this exemption may treat no more than 30 patients at one time (the 30-patient restriction does not apply to hospital-based physicians), and charts for patients treated for opioid use disorder must be kept separate from other patient charts.

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