The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the opioid epidemic, accelerating overdoses and deaths. Director Sarah-Lloyd Stevenson and advisor Nisha Quasba coauthored an article for The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy titled “Opioid Epidemic Worsens During Pandemic: NABP Informs Legislators on Benefits of Empowering Pharmacists and Expanding Access to MAT,” on the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act (MAT Act), a bill that would eliminate the requirement that practitioners apply for a separate waiver to offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to their patients, increasing access and supporting recovery.
Currently, federal law dictates that only certain qualified practitioners can obtain a special waiver, called a “DATA 2000 waiver” after the federal law that created it, or an “X waiver.” The authors assert that this waiver requires additional training and burdensome steps that ultimately limit patients’ access to care, and that pharmacists, who already have a dispensing role in the provision of MAT, could seamlessly expand their role to prescribing if the MAT Act were to pass.
The authors also outline three core goals the enactment of the MAT Act can achieve:
- Removing an unnecessary federal restriction on states, enabling state regulators and boards of pharmacy to determine the most appropriate care delivery for their communities.
- Protecting public health by expanding access to MAT broadly, removing the burdensome and bureaucratic waiver process that limits even currently eligible providers from offering MAT.
- Paving the way for pharmacists to offer lifesaving MAT to their patients.