Op-Ed Warns Changes to State Medicaid Drug List Will Restrict Addiction Treatment

An Op-Ed in The Baltimore Sun questions the actions of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) removing Suboxone film from the Maryland Medicaid Pharmacy Preferred Drug List (PDL). It is presumed instances of the film being smuggled into jails is one of the reasons for the removal.

The writers warn of the detrimental consequences the action has for addiction treatment:

Suboxone Film, also known as buprenorphine film, is an effective and well-tolerated medication that is widely prescribed to treat opioid addiction. Since it became available three years ago, it has become one of the most commonly prescribed opioid addiction treatments in Maryland; it works and is easy to take. Yet DHMH is precipitously removing this medication from the Maryland Medicaid Pharmacy Preferred Drug List (PDL) as of July 1. After then, it will only be covered if prescribing physicians first go through an arduous prior authorization process. DHMH will replace Suboxone on the list with relatively little-used Zubsolv Tablets, which will become the only opioid addiction medication available without the prior authorization hurdle.

The scope of the smuggling problem is unknown. Prison doctors are not allowed to prescribe Suboxone for inmates addicted to opiates, so it is reasonable to assume that some people are treating their addiction through self medication. The corrections system could choose to begin providing medication-assisted opiate addictions treatment, eliminating the need to bring in the drug illegally. Regardless, it is highly unlikely that this change will eliminate the smuggling problem, as Dr. Wen noted, if that is the issue. We have seen no evidence that Zubsolv has less smuggling potential. However, we know this change will damage public health.

Without Medicaid reimbursement, Suboxone Film, a well-tolerated medicine will be virtually unavailable for the most vulnerable patients, resulting in a serious restriction of access to treatment.

For more information read the full Op-Ed in The Baltimore Sun.

Addiction treatment is one of the issues that will be discussed at the MACo Summer Conference session ”Counties Confront Substance Abuse: What’s Now, What’s New, and What’s Next”, from 1:00 pm -2:00 pm, Friday, August 19, 2016 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

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