Expanding Opioid Addiction Treatment Options in Missouri Is Focus of McCaskill Request

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today applauded the Trump Administration for its new effort to ease regulations on the prescribing of buprenorphine, an opioid addiction treatment, and requested that it consider more ways to expand Missourians’ access to the drug. Her outreach follows a Joplin Globe report that only approximately three percent of eligible doctors in the state can prescribe it.

“When a person makes the courageous decision to overcome their opioid addiction, we need to make sure they have quick and easy access to the treatment they need,” McCaskill said. “But that can often be difficult—in Missouri, only three percent of eligible doctors can prescribe one of the proven opioid addiction treatments. I’m glad the Trump Administration made the important first step of expanding access to this drug, and I look forward to working together to find more ways to help Missourians who are on their road to recovery.”

McCaskill wrote today to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) applauding its decision to ease regulations, allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to obtain waivers to prescribe the opioid addiction treatment buprenorphine outside of an approved narcotics treatment center. In Missouri, approximately three percent of eligible doctors can prescribe the drug, and now nurse practitioners and physician assistants can receive waivers to prescribe as well.

However, certain states including Missouri have additional restrictions on nurse practitioners and physician assistants prescribing without the supervision of a doctor. “I encourage DEA to consider ways in which state laws may limit the impact of its deregulatory efforts in the opioid addiction treatment area and communicate its findings with state boards of nursing and other appropriate state entities,” McCaskill wrote. “I also stand ready to assist DEA however I can in removing further obstacles to opioid addiction treatment and expanding buprenorphine access in Missouri and across rural America.”

Today’s letter is part of McCaskill’s continued efforts to target the opioid epidemic. McCaskill recently joined two of her Republican colleagues to encourage DEA to expand telemedicine options so that doctors can evaluate patients and prescribe opioid addiction treatments over the Internet or by phone, which can be especially helpful in Missouri’s rural communities where there can be doctor shortages.

Earlier this year, McCaskill launched an investigation into opioid manufacturers—the most comprehensive Congressional investigation into the crisis to date—when she requested information related to sales and marketing materials, internal addiction studies, details on compliance with government settlements and donations to third party advocacy groups from major opioid manufacturers. She expanded her investigation, requesting documents and information from opioid manufacturers Mallinckrodt, Endo, Teva, and Allergan, while a request to McKesson Corporation, AmerisourceBergen Corporation, and Cardinal Health, Inc., focused on their distribution of opioid products. In September, McCaskill announced the first round of findings, detailing systemic manipulation of the prior authorization process by Insys Therapeutics. McCaskill is currently working on legislation to strengthen DEA’s opioid enforcement abilities. After media reports indicated that the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016 had dramatically restricted DEA’s ability to crack down on opioid distributors suspected of wrongdoing, McCaskill introduced a bill to repeal the law, and she led a Senate roundtable on her bill.

Read McCaskill’s letter to the DEA HERE.