New Tennessee Law Restricts Prescribing of Buprenorphine

By Victoria Kim 09/09/15

Lawmakers voted to limit cases in which doctors can prescribe opioid addiction medications like Suboxone.

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As of July 1, doctors in Tennessee have been limited to prescribing buprenorphine solely for opioid dependence and can no longer recommend the drug for pain management.

The Addiction Treatment Act of 2015 limits doctors’ ability to prescribe the semi-synthetic opioid maintenance drug, including limits on dosages.

A report from a ProPublica database found three of the top 10 prescribers of Suboxone, a formulation of buprenorphine and naloxone, currently practice in Johnson City, home to a population of just 65,000 people.

In an effort to curb over-prescribing of buprenorphine, Tennessee doctors are now limited to prescribing the drug for opioid addiction. But because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not recognize buprenorphine as a treatment for pain management, patients can no longer receive buprenorphine for chronic pain, despite the drug’s proven analgesic properties.

The law also limits Subutex, or buprenorphine mono (buprenorphine by itself), for the treatment of opioid dependence for pregnant and nursing women, or people who have an adverse reaction to naloxone.

The law, drafted by former State Representative Tony Shipley and president of Watauga Recovery Center Dr. Tom Reach, also includes a Good Samaritan provision which establishes protections for an individual seeking emergency medical assistance in the event of a drug overdose from certain criminal drug charges.

HB 1036 also authorizes the Commissioner of Health to make available recommendations for training first responders in the appropriate use of opioid antagonists, specifically naloxone, and insurers are no longer allowed to refuse payment for a patient if they are under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr