Prescribing buprenorphine in an outpatient setting can address unmet need for treatment, but the number of prescribers is limited. Patients may face other barriers, including the time and energy needed to find a prescriber accepting new patients, getting quick access to buprenorphine, and high costs.
Increasing Access to Treatment
Medication-assisted therapy is commonly viewed as the most effective treatment for opioid use disorder. To increase access to treatment, policy makers allowed physicians to get a waiver from the Drug Enforcement Administration to prescribe buprenorphine in their own practices. Initially, waivered physicians were limited to treating only 30 patients simultaneously; subsequently the patient limit rose to 100 and then to 275.
Increasing the number of physicians who could prescribe buprenorphine substantially increased potential access to treatment, especially in rural areas. Physicians with 100-patient waivers are largely responsible for the increased access and utilization.
But there is no evidence that allowing more clinicians to prescribe buprenorphine and raising patient limits will by itself meaningfully increase effective use of buprenorphine. The majority of physicians don't come close to treating the number of patients allowed by their current waiver.