Docs fight to lift restrictions on anti-heroin drug

Docs fight to lift restrictions on anti-heroin drug

Docs fight to lift restrictions on anti-heroin drug

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by Wayne Havrelly

Bio | Email | Follow: @HavrellyKGW

kgw.com

Posted on August 5, 2010 at 5:55 PM

 

Suboxone takes away cravings for anyone addicted to opiates like heroin or prescription drugs like Oxycontin.

However, the federal government still has tight limits on it.  Few doctors are allowed to prescribe the drug to treat addiction.  Most who can,  are restricted to just 30 patients.  A few who undergo special training can treat up to 100 patients.

Drug treatment doctors say Suboxone is highly effective at taking away those crippling cravings without producing a euphoric high.

"Prior to Suboxone, success with treating opiate addiction was the exception rather than the rule," said Dr. Brad Anderson whose in charge of addiction medicine for Kaiser Permanente.

"Now it's just the opposite, it's very, very unusual if someone doesn't get better on Suboxone."

Many opiate addicts call it a miracle drug.  Dr. Anderson says the limits don't make logical sense.  Kaiser now has thousands of new opiate patients each year and only a handful of Doctors who can prescribe Suboxone.  

It means many patients who need the highly effective medication can't get it.  

The DEA. enforces the limits and tells Newschannel 8 they were established by Congress not the DEA.   

"It would be an easy fix, but it literally takes an act of Congress," said Dr. Anderson.  

All this, as Portland battles an explosion in heroin use that's impacting people from all walks of life.   Heroin has made a huge comeback in the past year after the many people hooked on opiates like Oxycontin turned to heroin which produces a similar high and is now much easier to find.  

Addiction experts say Suboxone is so effective in treating opiate addicts it can dramatically transform people in a matter of weeks. 

"Sometimes I don't recognize them until I look at the name and it's like wow, they look so much better," said Pharmacist Robbi Shannon.

Many experts on the front lines of the opiate war say Suboxone is their best weapon and say the federal limits on patients must be lifted. 

"In the meantime, there are going to be people who need this medication and can't get it and yes people will die," said Dr. Anderson.

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