The AMA is providing the following policy recommendations to help states and others with specific policy recommendations amid the COVID-19 global outbreak. These recommendations are to help guide policymakers reduce the stress being experienced by patients with an opioid use disorder (OUD) and pain as well as support efforts to continue harm reduction efforts in communities across the United States.
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1. Ensuring access to care for patients with an opioid use disorder
- Designate medications to treat addiction (buprenorphine, methadone, naltrexone) and medications to reverse opioid-related overdose (naloxone) as “essential services” to reduce barriers to access during “shelter-in-place” orders. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has already waived federal requirements for in-person visits before controlled substance prescribing; we encourage states to take similar action for their controlled substance regulations.
- Prohibit cost-sharing and prior authorization for medications used to treat addiction, including buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone; allow for a 90-day prescription for patients receiving buprenorphine; payers should suspend all day limits on residential and intensive out-patient therapy.
- States should request a blanket exception to SAMHSA for Opioid Treatment Programs (OTP) to receive Take-Home doses of a patient’s medication for opioid use disorder.
- Remove any restrictions on the Medicaid preferred drug lists to help avoid medication shortages. This includes ensuring coverage for methadone for patients receiving care in an OTP.
- Correctional and justice settings should temporarily waive strict requirements for submitting drug tests, in-person counseling and “check-ins” and similar requirements; suspend consequences for failure to meet strict reporting, counseling and testing requirements, including removal from public housing, loss of public benefits, and return to jail or prison. Additional efforts must be made to ensure people receiving MAT in criminal justice settings receive help in transitioning to care after release.