A recent blog post published by Health Affairs describes some of the barriers patients face trying to access opioid agonist therapy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many such therapies require patients to gather in large groups and to attend frequent in-person visits with prescribers, conflicting with many of the current public health efforts (e.g., social distancing, self-isolation) geared toward “flattening the curve.” Furthermore, individuals with opioid use disorder (OUD) are exceptionally vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19 due to a variety of factors.1
Federal and State health officials are trying to minimize these barriers by implementing policies to increase access to these essential therapies. For instance, SAMHSA issued relaxed guidance to allow stable patients in an opioid treatment program to receive 28 days of take-home doses of the patient’s medication for OUD and 14 days for patients who are less stable. In addition, the Drug Enforcement Agency now permits initiation of buprenorphine treatment via telemedicine visits without an in-person exam.
- Priest KC. The COVID-19 Pandemic: Practice and Policy Considerations for Patients With Opioid Use Disorder. Health Affairs Blog 2020 Apr 3. https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20200331.557887/full/