New federal regulations are slated to make methadone treatment more flexible for physicians involved with approved addiction treatment programs, giving them the same latitude in treating opiate addiction that they have with other diseases. The regulations replace a 30-year-old US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspection program with an accreditation process administered by the Department of Health and Human Services' (DHHS) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT).
While the old FDA system focused on controlling the amount of methadone dispensed—which usually forced patients to show up at a clinic every morning—the new regulations will allow physicians to develop individualized treatment plans. They will be able to prescribe several days' worth of methadone or another drug approved for opiate addiction, levo-alpha-acetyl-methadol (LAAM), if they think the patient is ready to handle it. The CSAT is funding studies to determine the feasibility of physicians prescribing these drugs from their own offices.
Vastag B. Methadone Regulations Overhauled. JAMA. 2001;285(11):1435. doi:10.1001/jama.285.11.1435