SAMHSA Launches Buprenorphine Education Initiative
By Rebecca A. Clay
SAMHSA launched an initiative this winter to educate physicians and patients
about buprenorphine-a new medication to treat addiction to heroin
and other opioid drugs, including prescription painkillers. The
Food and Drug Administration approved buprenorphine for treatment
use in October 2002.
The approval of buprenorphine enables physicians to treat patients,
for the first time, in the privacy of their offices rather than
at the specialty clinics required to dispense methadone. (See SAMHSA
News, summer 2002 and fall 2002.) Service providers hope this
will encourage more people to seek treatment.
According to the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000, physicians
who want to prescribe buprenorphine must get a waiver exempting
them from certain Federal requirements pertaining to prescribing
controlled substances for addiction treatment. To obtain waivers,
licensed physicians must have subspecialty board certification or
training in treating and managing opiate-dependent patients. SAMHSA's
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) is funding training
sessions through four medical societies.
SAMHSA launched the "New Paths to Recovery" educational
initiative in December with a forum in Washington, DC. Similar events
are planned to follow in 14 other cities.
At the heart of the initiative is SAMHSA's new Buprenorphine Information
Center. (See end of article for contact
information.) At the Web site, for example, physicians can learn
more about buprenorphine, check a schedule of upcoming training
events, or even take advantage of online training that allows them
to become qualified without ever having to leave home.
"Congress wanted the fewest barriers possible for physicians
to qualify as buprenorphine prescribers," explained Robert
Lubran, M.S., M.P.A., Director of CSAT's Division of Pharmacologic
Therapies. "Online courses make it convenient for any physician,
including those living in rural areas, to get training."
The Web site also features more specialized resources, for both
professionals and the public. There's a "Physician Locator"
that potential patients can use to find qualified physicians in
their area, for instance. Other resources include an explanation
of the waiver process and a waiver notification form, a draft curriculum,
and model state medical board policy guidelines.
Other New Paths to Recovery resources are still under development.
A forthcoming series of brochures, for example, will allow state
governments, medical societies, patient groups, and others to alert
their members to buprenorphine's availability. CSAT is also developing
clinical practice guidelines and an online training course for drug
In announcing the initiative, SAMHSA Administrator Charles G. Curie,
M.A., A.C.S.W., said, "Buprenorphine alone is not a 'silver
bullet' for opiate addiction, but it can open the door to recovery
by providing more options to people in need of treatment."
For more information, visit SAMHSA's Buprenorphine Information
Center at www.buprenorphine.samhsa.gov
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
A toll-free telephone number-1 (866) BUP-CSAT or 1 (866) 287-2728-is
accessible on weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., e.s.t.
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