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Murphy critical of buprenorphine while HHS encourages it

March 26, 2015
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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Rep. Tim Murphy (R. Pa.) led a subcommittee hearing today to examine the growing problem of prescription drug and heroin abuse. He was especially critical of the nation’s current response, saying the approach of using long-term maintenance drugs is misguided.

“This is government-supported addiction,” Murphy said at the hearing. “It is not moving people to sobriety.”

The number of overdose deaths and babies born addicted to opioids is only increasing, he said. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) were called out in particular.

“Despite these problems, HHS and SAMHSA continue to actively and aggressively promote the use of buprenorphine, yet [are] noticeably silent on promoting research and innovative measures with the goal of ending opioid addiction, not simply continuing addiction through drug maintenance programs of methadone or buprenorphine,.” Murphy said.  “It concerns me that HHS and SAMHSA have no practical guidance on how to get people off of this prescribed opioid when those on buprenorphine maintenance for substance abuse disorders use illicit opioids an average of four times a week.”

Also today, HHS announced $113 million in new funding for the federal opioid strategy, which includes encouraging bipartisan policy changes to increase use of buprenorphine and training for prescribing physicians.