American Society of Addiction Medicine Launches Initiative to Advance Patient Access to Addiction Medications

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FDA-approved medications for opioid dependence are being restricted by state governments and private payers. ASAM's Advancing Access to Addiction Medications initiative will produce a major research and policy report that provides the most extensive examination to date of the efficacy of opioid dependence pharmacotherapies and public policies regarding these medications.

FDA-approved medications for opioid dependence are being restricted by state governments and private payers, and that could interrupt effective treatment for disorders that afflict millions of Americans and harm their families and entire communities.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) announced today the beginning of a year-long project to analyze the effectiveness of medications used to treat opioid dependence and to survey public and private payers to identify policies that limit patient access to these medications.

The initiative will result in a major research and policy report, expected to be released this summer, which will provide the most extensive examination to date of the efficacy of opioid dependence pharmacotherapies and public policies regarding these medications.

“Providing the best possible care to each individual patient with opioid dependence requires physicians to have the breadth and depth of medical science at their disposal,” said ASAM President Stuart Gitlow, M.D. “However, FDA-approved medications for opioid dependence are being restricted by state governments and private payers, and that could interrupt effective treatment for disorders that afflict millions of Americans and harm their families and entire communities.”

In the most recent example, the State of Maine has limited Medicaid coverage to two years for buprenorphine and Methadone, both FDA-approved medications for the treatment of addiction to opioids such as heroin and prescription pain relievers. Research has shown that addiction is a chronic disease similar to diabetes and hypertension, with long-term treatment success equal to or better than those diseases.

“No state legislature would put a time limit on medications for any other chronic disease, such as diabetes or hypertension,” Gitlow said. “Yet there is a patchwork of such policies across the country on addiction medications. We want to identify model approaches that can set the standard for effective patient access.”

The ASAM initiative will include analyses of research on the clinical efficacy and economic benefits of medications, which will be conducted by the Treatment Research Institute (http://triweb.tresearch.org), a Philadelphia-based independent, nonprofit research organization dedicated to science-driven reform of treatment and policy on substance use. The survey of public and private payers is being conducted by The Avisa Group (http://avisagroup.com), a San Francisco consulting and research firm that specializes in substance abuse and mental health services.

The initiative also will include an outreach component to inform patient, public health and treatment communities, along with policy-makers and government health officials, about the results of the research analyses and payer surveys. The outreach will be conducted by Jim Gogek, a communications consultant who specializes in substance use disorder issues, and ASAM staff.

For more information about opioid dependence therapy and about this effort, please visit http://www.accesstoaddictionmedications.org.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine is a national medical specialty society of over 3,000 physicians. Its mission is to increase access to and improve the quality of addiction treatment; to educate physicians, other health care providers and the public; to support research and prevention; to promote the appropriate role of the physician in the care of patients with addictive disorders; and to establish Addiction Medicine as a specialty recognized by professional organizations, governments, physicians, purchasers and consumers of health care services and the general public. ASAM was founded in 1954, and has had a seat in the American Medical Association House of Delegates since 1988.

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Alexis Geier Horan
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