Apr 09 - -

MAT and COVID-19 Treatment Reform

Medication-Assisted Treatment and COVID-19 Recommendations 

1:  Even though we are in a COVID crisis, we are still in an overdose crisis. Methadone and buprenorphine are evidence-based and life-saving medications for people with opioid use disorders.

2: Many programs have not implemented new federal guidelines to provide patients with easier access to these medications. This places patients at risk for COVID-19 exposure because they still must attend treatment daily or frequently. The new federal guidelines must be implemented everywhere to promote social distancing and more steps can be taken to reduce risks.

3: It is still too difficult to get started on these medications. We must make them widely available in more settings and more providers should be allowed to prescribe them. Without access to these medications, people who use illicit opioids are at risk of overdose from the adulterated street supply or may face involuntary withdrawal if their street supply access ends.

All of these considerations are important because they save lives.

Every clinic should adopt our recommendations and follow SAMHSA’s guidance

SUPPORT/BACKGROUND #1: 

Research shows that staying on MAT is associated with:

  • Reduced overdose risk (by 50%!)
  • Reduced risk of returning to street drugs
  • Reduced risk of contracting or spreading HIV or HCV
  • Staying compliant with other medications
  • Staying employed
  • Staying housed
  • Staying financially stable

SUPPORT/BACKGROUND #2: 

  • New proposed changes should allow for at minimum, 14 days of take-home doses for patients who are being stabilized on their medications, 28 days of take-home doses for patients who are already stabilized on their medications.
  • Any counseling requirements should be met via telehealth or phone calls.
  • Any drug testing requirements should be suspended.
  • For those in rural areas or who live over 15 miles from their treatment programs, deliveries should be available.

SUPPORT/BACKGROUND #3:

  • While policies now allow people to get started on buprenorphine through telemedicine without an in-person meeting, methadone requires an in-person first visit.
  • Only doctors and certain other health professionals who have gone through an 8-hour training and paid for a special waiver can prescribe buprenorphine right now. It is estimated that only 10% of all doctors have gotten this waiver to prescribe.
  • Methadone can only be dispensed in licensed Opioid Treatment Programs.
  • Being on either of these medications reduces overdose risk by 50% and helps people avoid the illicit street supply.

Nation’s Leading Drug Policy Experts Demand Medication Assisted Treatment and COVID-19: Treatment Reforms Read More