HHS releases new buprenorphine practice guidelines, relaxing waiver requirements



The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released new practice guidance on buprenorphine administration in an effort to make evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder more accessible to persons suffering with opioid addiction. According to a related press release issued by HHS, overdose deaths have increased during COVID-19 and are at an all-time high, making treatment accessibility imperative.

Generally, in order to prescribe buprenorphine, a medication used for the treatment of opioid use disorder, a practitioner must be separately registered or obtain a waiver from the separate registration requirement. Among other things, the new guidelines remove a long-standing training requirement for obtaining a waiver. Practitioners frequently cite this training requirement as an obstacle to treating patients with opioid use disorder.

Under the new guidelines, eligible physicians, physicians assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified registered nurse anesthetists and certified nurse midwives are exempt from federal certification requirements related to training, counseling and other ancillary services (i.e., psychosocial services), that are generally required to obtain a waiver, and practitioners can treat up to 30 patients without meeting those requirements.

Notably, eligible practitioners must still apply for and obtain the waiver to treat up to 30 patients and the cited certification requirements continue to apply to providers wishing to treat more than 30 patients.

The Ohio Board of Pharmacy has issued a guidance document summarizing some of the HHS guidance, including the rules for waivers under the new HHS buprenorphine practice guidelines.

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