Methadone, the opioid use disorder treatment, is available only at 1,700 opioid treatment programs (OTPs), making it difficult to access. The OTPs are federally regulated locations. Yet 80% of U.S. counties have no OTP, creating lengthy journeys for patients, Roll Call reports. While the Biden administration has proposed a rule that would reduce the number of days patients need to appear at an OTP to receive methadone, not all OTPs and states have embraced the idea. Addiction doctors and policymakers argue that with overdose deaths increasing and the illicit drug supply becoming deadlier, the U.S. can no longer afford to put such strict limits on a life-saving drug.
In Congress, Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ) and Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) have sponsored legislation that would allow physicians and psychiatrists board-certified in addiction medicine to prescribe methadone from their offices. The measure faces pushback from some OTPs and the trade organization representing them. Addiction doctors, experts and the lawmakers argue OTPs have a business interest in ensuring they are the only ones who can dispense methadone. About 62% of OTPs are operated by private for-profit facilities. An estimated 112,000 people died of drug overdoses in the 12-month period ending in May — an increase of 2.5% from the previous year.