Continued from: DEA Suboxone Audit: Worst Experience of My Career as a Physician
Read the script below.
Hello. I’m the owner & editor of BehaveNet.com
Today I want to talk to you about an initiative by the Drug Enforcement Administration that threatens patient access to buprenorphine, also known by the Trade names Suboxone and Subutex.
These drugs were made available in the US, as an alternative to methadone, for treatment of addiction to heroin and pharmaceutical opiates like Oxycontin early in 2003.
Starting as early as the summer of 2009 DEA agents started making unannounced and unscheduled visits to physician practices to audit records related to prescribing and dispensing buprenorphine.
These audits needlessly disrupt medical practices, threaten patient privacy, and waste taxpayer money and the agents’ time which could be better devoted to investigating diversion and illegal prescribing of dangerous opiates like Oxycontin.
I don’t object to the audits themselves which may result in stopping inappropriate practices by some physicians.
But physicians qualified to treat addiction with buprenorphine know to expect the audits, so DEA will not likely catch anyone red handed. I have already heard stories of agents wasting their time – and taxpayer money.
In one case agents appeared at a doctor’s office 3 times when they could not perform the audit because the doctor was absent.
In another case agents appeared at a doctor’s office when a staff Halloween costume party was in full swing but the physician was absent. I can just imagine the agent’s response at the reception desk:
"No, this is not a costume. I really am a DEA agent."
Surely agents have better things to do with their time. And taxpayer money.
If you are a patient, even if you are not treated with buprenorphine, you may find yourself sharing your doctor’s waiting room with a DEA agent who lives or works in your community and may recognize you.
I wrote a letter to my local DEA field office offering a time when I would be available for my audit. No one even responded.
Doctors have to jump through too many hoops already to provide this life-saving treatment. The disruption of practices that results from unscheduled audits will discourage physicians from providing buprenorphine treatment, resulting in increased illicit drug use. Maybe it is not just a coincidence that this will also increase job security for DEA employees.
I hope you will join me in demanding that DEA immediately begin scheduling all buprenorphine audits. In protest I have also made a decision to stop accepting new patients for buprenorphine treatment in my practice until my audit is completed. I hope other physicians will do the same and let it be known.
Contact your elected representatives, local medical associations, your local DEA field office, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Dr. Westley Clark at the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and Gil Kerlikowske at the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The American Civil Liberties Union may also be interested in your privacy concerns.
Physicians can coordinate efforts at the CSAT buprenorphine forum and the Behavenet opinion blog. Just search for “DEA Suboxone audit.”
Thank you, and stay clean.
Agents in the Waiting Room: To Warn or Not