Until recently, rural physicians have had few tools to help their patients escape opioid addiction — an epidemic health issue in rural areas, with large numbers of unintentional overdoses, even deaths. Methadone maintenance therapy, the most common treatment for opioid addiction, is often unavailable. However, a federally approved medication called buprenorphine (also known as Suboxone or Subutex), is more readily available, and it’s a viable, office-based alternative to methadone.
Despite the potential advantages of buprenorphine as opioid replacement therapy for addicted patients, however, few physicians have taken the eight-hour course that allows them to legally prescribe this medication. As of 2010, only 32 rural doctors in Washington had received the federal waiver that allows them to prescribe Suboxone.
In late March, Roger A. Rosenblatt, M.D., MPH, UW professor and vice chair of the Department of Family Medicine, and UW Medicine’s ROAM (Rural Opiate Addiction Management) Collaborative helped remedy the situation by offering the course to rural physicians and members of their practice staff in Spokane, in conjunction with the annual Regional Rural Health meetings. Physician participants are then eligible to receive a waiver from the Drug Enforcement Administration to allow the prescription of buprenorphine to treat addiction. If they wish, they can also receive further mentoring and instruction from Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcome), a bi-weekly video-conferencing program that covers issues such as patient management, staff training and clinical protocols.
For more information on ROAM — a collaboration between Washington State University and the University of Washington, funded by the state’s Life Sciences Discovery Fund — contact Rosenblatt at 206.685.1361 or firstname.lastname@example.org.