On January 23, DEA amended regulatory language regarding opioid addiction treatment to allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to obtain Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 (DATA) waivers until October 1, 2021. This measure gives them the authority to prescribe schedule III medications, such as buprenorphine, for medication-assisted treatment in settings other than an opioid treatment program, upon meeting certain criteria as outlined in the 2016 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). DEA’s new language also reflects a 2016 final rule by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that allows qualified practitioners to treat up to 275 patients for opioid use disorder without being registered under the Controlled Substances Act.
DEA published the amended language in the January 23, 2018, Federal Register as a final rule, without public comment, stating that the agency is obligated to revise its regulations to be consistent with the changes brought by CARA and the HHS rule.
In a statement, DEA said the measure will provide more treatment options for people in rural areas, as 90% of DATA-waived physicians practice in urban counties and 53% of rural counties do not have a prescribing physician. DEA acknowledged that rural patients who seek treatment with buprenorphine often must travel long distances for care, and that demand for treatment exceeds the capacity and resources of rural providers.
Pharmacists are currently not eligible to obtain DATA waivers. In a January 23 CEO Blog, APhA executive vice president and CEO Thomas E. Menighan, BSPharm, MBA, ScD (Hon), FAPhA, noted that if pharmacists were able to do so, patients would have greater access to medication-assisted treatment.