Markey Leads Bipartisan Effort to Fight Opioids

Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) last week introduced the “Addiction Treatment Access Improvement Act” that will expand access to medication-assisted therapies for opioid addiction. The legislation codifies a 2016 regulation that expanded the number of patients – from 100 to 275 – that qualified physicians could treat with life-saving medication-assisted therapies such as buprenorphine (also called Suboxone).

The legislation also builds upon a pilot program established in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), signed into law in 2016, allowing non-physician qualified health practitioners to prescribe buprenorphine, making this authorization permanent and expanding the types of professionals who qualify.

Senators Markey and Paul are the original authors of the provision in CARA, modified for inclusion in the law, that for the first time allowed trained nurse practitioners and physicians assistants to provide life-saving medication-assisted therapies to those suffering from opioid use disorders. More than 42,000 Americans died of an opioid overdose in 2016; more than 2,000 of those deaths were in Massachusetts.

The new opioid legislation is supported by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the American Nurses Association, American Association of Nurse Practitioners, American Academy of Physician Assistants, the American College of Nurse-Midwives, and the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists.