The Pew Charitable Trusts’ substance use prevention and treatment initiative submitted a letter on April 14 to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asking them to suspend the X-waiver, which is required of health care practitioners who wish to prescribe buprenorphine for opioid use disorder (OUD). This action would allow nonwaivered providers to prescribe buprenorphine throughout the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration requires that health care practitioners receive additional training and obtain the X-waiver from the DEA before they are able to prescribe buprenorphine, the only medication for OUD that can be obtained without a visit to a doctor or treatment facility. As the American health system is being pushed to the brink by the coronavirus pandemic, increased access to buprenorphine is critical for reducing overdose deaths and preventing a flood of OUD patients at hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases.
The letter calls for collaboration between the DEA and HHS to immediately suspend the X-waiver and bolster access to OUD medication for millions of Americans.