ASAM Plans Campaign to Advocate for Medication-Assisted Treatment of Addiction

Mark L. Kraus, M.D., FASAM

Mark L. Kraus, M.D., FASAM

Issues arising from the 2012 ASAM Annual Medical-Scientific Conference will set into motion a campaign to persuade insurance companies, government officials, and others about the health and fiscal value of medication-assisted treatment for addiction, says ASAM Patient Advocacy Task Force Chair Mark L. Kraus, M.D., FASAM.

Two sessions during this year’s conference set the stage for informing addiction medicine specialists about the issues, the resistance to, and the resulting advocacy for medication-assisted treatment to address addiction. “State Medicaid Limitations on Buprenorphine: How to Fight Back” and “Addressing Prescription Drug Abuse: Role of the Physician in Counteracting Diversion, Misuse, and Addiction” were both presented Saturday.

ASAM appointed a new Patient Advocacy Task Force to confront this major U.S. medications crisis, and the task force has launched a campaign to advocate medication-assisted treatment for addiction on many different fronts. The crisis involves widespread drug-abuse issues, which have culminated in efforts by state and federal government officials and insurance companies to unduly restrict the use of prescription drugs to treat drug and alcohol addiction, Dr. Kraus says.

If similar restrictions were applied to medications for heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure, that would spark “a lot more ruckus” than has been true of access limits for addiction medicine, he says. Insurers and others are concerned about costs, yet “it’s been shown that these medications save money” by preventing the ravages of addiction. He adds, “Addiction is not going to be wished away—it has to be treated.”

Dr. Kraus, who is a Diplomate of the American Board of Addiction Medicine and Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at Yale University School of Medicine, cites limitations in Maine and other states on the use of buprenorphine, curbs in other states on use of methadone, and still other states that don’t offer any medication-assisted treatment for addiction. Many insurance companies specify what form—tablet or film strip, for example—that a prescription medicine is allowed, for how many months, what dosage, and how frequently the medication can be taken.

“That intrusion must be stopped,” Dr. Kraus says. “Policy makers seem to believe that they are saving money through medication-access limitations, but instead, they are boosting society’s costs. It has been shown that these medications save money in the long run. Having no treatment costs society a lot of money—money that we don’t have.”

Stay tuned for progress of the ASAM Patient Advocacy Task Force in advocating for medication-assisted treatment of addiction by frequently visiting the ASAM website, www.asam.org.