Free Training Prepares Physicians to Administer Buprenorphine to Address Opioid Dependency

Between 2012 and 2016, opioid-related overdose deaths in Louisiana more than doubled, and 2017, there were 89.5 opioid prescriptions for every 100 Louisiana residents, according to data in The Louisiana Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Program Action Plan, released in October of 2019 by the Office of Behavioral Health.  

Opioid use disorder is a chronic relapsing condition, but one that can be effectively addressed by family physicians with medications such as buprenorphine.

Buprenorphine is the first medication to treat opioid dependency that can be prescribed and dispensed in physician offices, which significantly increases access to the treatment. Buprenorphine features unique pharmacological properties that lower the potential for misuse, diminish the effects of physical dependency on opioids, and increase safety, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In addition, buprenorphine can be safely prescribed to women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and who have an opioid use disorder.

Currently, only 1,242 healthcare providers in Louisiana are waivered to administer buprenorphine as a treatment for opioid use disorder. Throughout 2019, Louisiana Healthcare Connections offered a free training series that provided an additional 121 clinicians with the opportunity to become buprenorphine-waivered. Based on the success of the training course, the health plan has elected to continue it in 2020 – at no cost to physicians.

“We view this treatment as a clinically effective therapy that has the potential to reduce Louisiana’s high rates of opioid dependency and overdose,” said Stewart Gordon, MD, chief medical officer. “Our state’s physicians need the tools, training, and supports necessary to address opioid addiction at the point of care, and we are committed to providing them with that infrastructure. This training is one way we can do that.”

Conducted by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), the course features four hours of self-paced, online learnings and four hours of live, interactive training, and awards Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits to those physicians who complete it. Attendees also receive a copy of the ASAM National Practice Guidelines, a reference guide, and other clinical resources.

The Drug Abuse Treatment Act of 2000 (DATA 2000) specifies that training is necessary for physicians to obtain a waiver to engage in office-based treatment of opioid use disorders using drugs approved by the FDA on Schedules III, IV, and V. This course addresses those requirements using a curriculum approved by CSAT/SAMHSA and ASAM, who is one of the national organizations named in the DATA 2000 legislation as eligible to prepare and administer these courses.

The course will be held Jan. 17 and physicians are encouraged to register now to reserve their seats. Registration may be completed online at https://www.louisianahealthconnect.com/providers/resources/provider-training/asam-training.html.