NASHVILLE — State Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston) has filed comments with the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) over the U.S. Health and Human Service’s proposed rule to increase the highest patient limit for physicians to treat opioid use under the Controlled Substance Act from 100 to 200.  Yager said the action by the Obama Administration would aggravate the current problem of Suboxone misuse in Tennessee and allow unscrupulous doctors who pander to the trade to threaten public safety.

“I oppose amending the pertinent federal rules to allow physicians to expand the number of Suboxone patients in the office or outpatient clinic setting,” Yager wrote.  “We are experiencing problems with such clinics in East Tennessee. Suboxone is as addictive as oxycodone and for many is the replacement drug of choice. Unscrupulous medical doctors are pandering to this trade, resulting in large numbers of addicts loitering around the offices and making a general nuisance and threat to public safety. Local law enforcement is unable to do anything because current federal regulations protect the doctor, the office, and the clientele.”

“Liberalizing the current rules would aggravate the current problem,” he added.  “In light of the problems with growing opioid addiction and the troubling issues associated with use of Suboxone, the federal government should reconsider its lax enabling of the use of Suboxone in treating people with opiate addiction rather than changing the rules to allow doctors to expand the clientele.

Yager sponsored a bill approved by the legislature this year which defines nonresidential substitution-based treatment centers for opiate addiction and places them under the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse for licensure.   The legislation addresses the problem of misuse of Suboxone or Buprenorphine, drugs used to treat opiate addiction, which is similar to the use of methadone in the treatment for heroin dependence.  Unlike methadone clinics, Suboxone clinics are not regulated.  Doctors are restricted to serving a certain number of patients; however, some clinics are skirting the law by opening multiple physician offices under the same roof.

“The new law attempts to root out these bad actors so opiate abusers do not utilize Suboxone to continue their life of addiction,” Yager added.  “It helps to ensure that these centers are using a multi-disciplinary approach in aiding patients to overcome their addiction and become productive members of society.”

The comment period closed on May 31.