Dec 2, 2022 - Health

Year-end package could increase access to addiction treatment

Illustration of a gavel made of a pill bottle, touching a gavel rest made of a white pill.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

A bipartisan bill to increase access to treatment for opioid addiction has a good chance of being rolled into a year-end package during the lame-duck session, congressional aides tell Axios.

Why it matters: Advocates point to federal data showing only one in 10 people with opioid use disorder receive medication for it.

How it works: The bill would remove a requirement that health care providers get a special waiver from the Drug Enforcement Administration before they can prescribe buprenorphine, an addiction treatment that reduces the risk of future overdoses.

What they're saying: Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), one of the lead sponsors of the bill, told Axios he is "very confident" it will make the omnibus. "Leadership is working hard to get it done," he said, calling the bill a "lifesaver."

  • Nearly 200 organizations sent a letter to Congress this week urging its passage, including the National Association of Counties, the American Medical Association and the National Sheriffs' Association.

The path forward: Backers say they have not encountered a large amount of opposition, but there is still a lot of uncertainty around how big the end-of-year package will be and what will make it in.

  • There is at least some opposition from certain House Republicans, including members who are doctors, like Indiana Rep. Larry Bucshon. Bucshon said earlier this year that the bill is "making it easier to prescribe a medication known to be highly diverted and misused."
  • Some doctors remain unwilling to prescribe buprenorphine for use at home without supervision, and there’s also concern about a lack of data about the drug’s effectiveness in those who misuse multiple substances.
  • At least at the moment, though, backers do not think the opposition will be enough to stop it from making it into the bill.
  • The list of cosponsors in the Senate includes members from across the ideological spectrum, including Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).

In the House, Chris Krepich, a spokesman for House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers, said it is a priority for her to get the House's mental health package, which includes the bill language, passed and signed into law in this Congress.

  • The package got over 400 votes in the House earlier this year.
Go deeper