Pandemic relief –  

Jan. 5, 2021 – “To get methadone, you have to show up in person every day and have people watch you take the medications,” Burke said. “Imagine if you had diabetes and you had to show up to get insulin every day – people would often miss doses and have health problems. So it’s a huge barrier.”

Ideally, patients should have similar access to both methadone and buprenorphine, researchers said. But since buprenorphine is available by prescription only, those who don’t have health insurance or a primary care physician may not be able to get it — and doctors who are able to prescribe it aren’t always doing so. 

According to the report, “the median active buprenorphine provider in our sample in 2017 served only about half as many patients in a given month as they could have,” the report said. “Even more concerning, beginning in 2016, an increasing number of providers in our sample appear to have stopped prescribing buprenorphine altogether, despite continuing to prescribe other medications.”

Rhode Island officials should take a closer look at where buprenorphine prescribers are located, and figure out what might be keeping them from treating more people with buprenorphine, Burke said.

“One surprise is that some practitioners have said they treat zero patients with buprenorphine,” she said. “What is going on with them? Why did they burn out? We need to see if the regulatory oversight needs more work. We need to get to the bottom of this, and it’s not just in Rhode Island.”

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