Pubdate: Mon, 02 May 2005
Source: Baltimore Sun (MD)
Copyright: 2005 The Baltimore Sun, a Times Mirror Newspaper.
Author: Robert Schwartz


Thanks to Alec MacGillis and The Sun for highlighting the barriers
that prevent physicians from prescribing buprenorphine, a safe and
highly effective treatment for heroin addiction ("Restrictions mute
drug's promise," April 24).

Given the serious health, social and economic consequences of drug
addiction in our nation, it is unfortunate that Congress took the
unusual step of singling out buprenorphine--from among the 4,000
medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration--and attaching
restrictions that effectively prohibit most physicians from
prescribing it. Group practices as well as individual doctors may
treat no more than 30 patients with buprenorphine at a time, and
physicians must undergo special training to prescribe it.

Our state has one of the highest rates of physicians who are able to
prescribe the medication. Nearly all of Baltimore's community health
centers have made this treatment available, and many hospitals are
using it to treat their patients.

In addition to removing the 30-patient restriction, we must encourage
more physicians to acquire the required training to prescribe
buprenorphine so that the many heroin-dependent individuals in
Baltimore and throughout the state have convenient access to this treatment.

Robert Schwartz