After the Drug Enforcement Agency eased restrictions and allowed telehealth appointments for buprenorphine prescriptions, the percentage of patients who continued treatment for at least 180 days tripled, according to the Drexel study.
“When you subject people to a mandatory monitoring and attendance regimen and a dozen other additional program requirements, they rightly believe they are in a prison and not a clinic,” Cocchiaro said, who is also a professor of family medicine at Drexel. University College of Medicine and Penn State Hershey College of Medicine. “When you loosen the restrictions, more of them come to your clinic, not less. They stay with the program more, not less. They recover better, not worse.
He said telehealth appointments do not reduce the quality of healthcare the patient receives, stressing that patients can still receive comprehensive services, including counselling.
The study authors say the study demonstrates that regulatory changes should persist and that federal agencies should reassess their approach to drug use disorders.
“Our objective is to really liberalize this access to [Medication-Assisted Treatment]so that more people can get the drug which can help people stay in treatment for opioid use disorder and can also reduce the risk of overdose death if they take the drug,” Ward said. .
“These policies are only used in emergencies, basically… So there is no guarantee that they will exist in the post-pandemic era. So it’s up to us as researchers to really advocate for the reduced restrictions to stay in place.