Shared from the 11/17/2018 The Florida Times-Union eEdition


Physicians need options for opioid addiction treatment

It boggles the mind. In the midst of an opioid epidemic, why would anyone want to tie the hands of the physicians working to help patients break the cycle of addiction?

But that is what is happening in Florida.

Right now there is only one drug that physicians in Florida can provide as an opioid addiction medication to patients — yet some of the largest insurers deny coverage to patients who are prescribed it.

This makes no sense.

I have practiced addiction medicine in Florida since 1991.

When physicians treat opioid-addicted patients, we often rely on what is known as medication-assisted treatment.

Medication-assisted treatment usually involves both counseling and a medication specially designed to help reduce addiction cravings; coupled with ongoing physician engagement, medication-assisted treatment is widely considered the gold standard of opioid addiction care.

There is a specific class of drugs used in this type of therapy for opioid dependence: it is called the buprenorphine/naloxone class of medications.


However, despite the fact that several of these drugs have been widely accepted as effective for medication-assisted treatment, Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration and Florida Blue — the state's largest insurer — have given physicians approval to use only one of them!

They are shackling the hands of physicians. They are wrong to deny physicians — and the patients we treat — access to options that are both effective and cost-effective.

I want to stress that I am merely advocating for physicians — in consultation with their patients — to have these options available.

I am not advocating that one drug be required — or one drug preferred over another.

Right now a Floridian dies from an opioid overdose every two hours.

We need help.


Amit Vijapura is the physician and medical director for Vijapura Behavioral Health in Jacksonville. He is board certified in the practice of psychiatry and addiction medicine. Vijapura is also president of the Jacksonville chapter of the Florida Psychiatric Society.

See this article in the e-Edition Here