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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: Buprenorphine without a Prescription Could Save Lives

An estimated two million people in the U.S. struggle with opioid use disorder (OUD), and approximately 130 die from an overdose each day — but only 20 to 40 percent of people with OUD receive medications such as buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone to treat the condition. Increasing access to buprenorphine by making it available without a prescription could prove helpful in addressing the opioid epidemic, according to a new viewpoint co-authored by a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher and published in JAMA. 

“Limiting quantities to a three-day supply could encourage patients to seek long-term treatment from a clinician for their medical and psychosocial needs. But having the choice to walk into a pharmacy, any time day or night, and buy a dose of buprenorphine, rather than inject a dose of fentanyl that can kill you, seems a good option,” says Dr. Michael Stein, professor and chair of health law, policy & management at BUSPH, who co-authored the viewpoint with corresponding author Dr. Payel Roy, an instructor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.

The Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 allows physicians to prescribe buprenorphine, a schedule III medication for outpatient treatment of OUD. However, according to the authors, the steps required for patients to initiate buprenorphine treatment and for prescribers to provide buprenorphine are onerous.

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