Confronting an opioid overdose epidemic that is killing at least 90 people every day, two federal agencies this month gave more than 700 nurse practitioners and physician assistants the authority to write prescriptions for the anti-addiction medication buprenorphine, reports Stateline. The goal is to let them help treat as many of the more than 2.5 million people addicted to painkillers or heroin in the nation as they can. Tens of thousands more nurse practitioners and physician assistants could be helping by applying for a federal license to prescribe the potentially life-saving medicine. Laws in more than half the states are likely to prevent nurses from using their licenses in rural areas that need it most.
Twenty-eight states prohibit nurse practitioners from prescribing buprenorphine unless they are working in collaboration with a doctor who also has a federal license to prescribe it. Half of all U.S. counties U.S. lack a single physician with a license to prescribe buprenorphine. In addition, laws in Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wyoming explicitly prohibit nurse practitioners from prescribing buprenorphine — one of three anti-addiction medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — with or without a doctor’s supervision. A law in Kentucky prohibits physician assistants from prescribing the safe and effective drug.