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Federal deregulation of opioid use treatment medication finds support from Delaware health officials

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Health officials in Delaware are applauding the Biden administration’s move to deregulate the opioid use disorder treatment medication buprenorphine.

The administration announced new federal regulations this week eliminating training requirements and allowing more types of medical practitioners to prescribe buprenorphine—which is proven to reduce opioid relapses and overdose deaths. 

This comes weeks after Delaware used more than $3.5 million in federal funds to launch a program teaching providers in the state how to incorporate prescribing the drug in their practices.    

That program is run by Dr. Elizabeth Brown, Chief Medical Officer of the state’s Division of Medicaid and Medical Assistance. She says the federal deregulation will expand the number of providers statewide who can treat patients with opioid use disorder.

“It’s going to normalize this type of practice and normalize prescribing of buprenorphine in primary care settings, because it removes this barrier that can easily be seen as a hurdle,” said Brown.        

Sun Behavioral Health’s Director of Pharmacy Lisa Deal seconds Brown’s support saying deregulation will increase prescribing, but she adds “it won’t be an end all be all to the opioid epidemic.” 

Buprenorphine produces effects similar to opioids like euphoria or respiratory depression, but with much less intensity. Deal says the idea is to maintain a level of comfort without achieving a high.

Suboxone is a commonly used medicine which combines Naloxone and buprenorphine and blocks opioids if patients try to inject.

Brown says buprenorphine is safe and notes it has been used for years. 

“We know the evidence that we have is that prescribing of this medication is more likely to save lives than to cause additional problems,” Brown said.        

The deregulation does not remove all requirements for prescribers. Providers are still required to file a notice of intent with the DEA to be granted the prescriber status.

Delaware continues to have one of the highest overdose death rates in the nation. The First State saw a record 446 overdose deaths statewide last year according to the state’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

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