An expert on opioid use disorder in San Antonio is on a mission to get more Texas doctors qualified to prescribe a medication that has a high rate of success in treating opioid addiction but that too few doctors can legally prescribe.
The medication is called buprenorphine, and Jennifer Sharpe Potter, a UT Health San Antonio professor of psychiatry, said it can be prescribed to patients with opioid use disorders, every day, at home. Potter said patients do well when they use this medication.
"When people are treated with buprenorphine we see a 50 percent reduction in the risk of overdose, and almost half of people who take buprenorphine see a recovery in their opioid use disorder," Potter said.
“We have fewer than 2,500 doctors that are able to treat opioid use disorder using buprenorphine in one of the largest states in the country,” Potter said. “That’s a problem.”
Potter said patients in the state’s vast, rural regions suffer most.
"People have to drive for a medication they take every day hundreds of miles in some instances to get this, so there are parts of the state where it's just not accessible to get treatment," Potter explained.
That’s why Potter has started a campaign called Get Waivered. She calls it a road show that will help more doctors get waivers to prescribe buprenorphine.
"We will go anywhere anyone wants us to come,” Potter said. “We will bring a trainer to them, and they’re going to learn how to diagnose opioid use disorder, who's the right person to give this medication to, and how to make this part of their practice."
Doctors need eight hours of specialized training to be granted a waiver to prescribe, and Potter hopes thousands of doctors across the state are interested in doing it.
"We don't want one or two providers treating a hundred or two hundred or three hundred patients. We want to have one thousand health care providers treating three or four or five patients so we have a nice distribution of health care providers throughout Texas that can treat people where they live."
She added, “Ultimately that’s the best way to treat opioid use disorder.”