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Why are doctors limited as to how many people they can help with buprenorphine?

DATA-2000 means that for the first time that doctors could treat a person recovering from an opioid addiction in their own clinic or practice, if they were certified. In 2002, the medications Suboxone and Subutex became the first drugs that doctors were permitted to use in the treatment of an addiction to an opioid such as heroin. The law eventually limited a doctor to the treatment of some 30 patients at one time. This was not popular with physicians and patients, who complained that they law was too restrictive, and that needy people were being denied treatments for serious addiction problems. Then there was no firm empirical evidence to support the limitations placed on the number of patients addicted to a drug that a doctor could treat.

This led to three amendments of the law. In 2005 a doctor could accept 30 patients irrespective of how many physicians worked in the same clinic or practice. Previously, every practice had been limited to only 30 patients even if they had several qualified physicians. The second amendment passed into law 12/29/2006, doctors who had DATA-2000 certification for more than twelve months could treat up to a maximum of 100 patients. This change meant that many more people who needed addiction treatment could receive support and the necessary medications. Despite these changes there was still not enough treatment available to those who desperately needed help. In 2016 a third amendment enabled suitable certified and qualified Nurses and Physician Assistants to prescribe medications used in the treatment of opiate addictions. In the same year the regulations were once again relaxed and the maximum number of patients a physician could treat was increased to 275.

This amendment has been helpful. However, there is a critical shortage of doctors who are qualified to prescribe medications for opiate dependency. Only a minority of doctors in the USA are qualified to prescribe and this is a major problem. Then there is the issue that even among those qualified to treat addicts only about one third (30%) of them do. This has led to many problems such as an insufficient supply of doctors and patients having only access to potentially lifesaving care and support. The shortage of doctors also means that the price of consultations and treatments are becoming expensive and prohibitively so, for many with serious drug problems.

Because of the shortage of doctors able and willing to prescribe medication to those with an addiction, it has created a real opportunity for those willing to do so. They can have a large number patient who are willing to pay for treatment. The limitations placed on doctors in general, do not mean that a physician cannot make a significant income from the treatment of addicts. It is possible for them to concentrate on these patients full-time or as way of supplementing their income.