In a move designed to improve access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT), the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is making it easier for qualified providers to remotely dispense methadone for opioid use disorder (OUD).
A new final rule is making it possible.
It streamlines the DEA registration process, cutting red tape for methadone MAT providers looking to add mobile units. The rule allows DEA registrants authorized to dispense methadone to also add remote components under their existing registrations. Previously, providers were required to complete multiple registrations before they could offer both office-based and remote methadone MAT for OUD patients.
The rule also outlines the records eligible providers — or narcotic treatment programs (NTPs) — have to maintain to expand the reach of their treatment programs with mobile components. Overall, there are more than 1,900 qualified methadone NTPs in the U.S., according to the DEA.
The hope is that the new single registration process for NTPs will improve access to MAT, especially in rural and underserved areas. The change comes as the U.S. OUD crisis is reaching new heights: In the 12-month period ending November 2020, there were more than 67,500 reported overdose deaths attributed to opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
“Today’s action sends a very important message that we support the use of medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder and are using all the tools at our disposal to make treatment options available to anyone in need of them, anywhere in the country,” DEA Assistant Administrator for Diversion Control Tim McDermott said in a press release announcing the news.