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Nurse practitioners not allowed to prescribe drug used to treat opioid addiction

Posted at 7:45 PM, Feb 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-19 22:01:19-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — Nurse practitioners across the state are trying to prescribe a drug to treat opioid addiction. However, it’s not allowed in Tennessee.

The CEO of Neighborhood Health, Brian Haile, wants that to change so their clinics can serve their clients in rural areas. There are clinics in both Lebanon and Hartsville that do not have a physician on staff. Therefore, the clinics cannot prescribe buprenorphine.

There are other drugs on the market, but according to Haile, buprenorphine is the only one that’s proven to treat opioid addiction.

"Nurse practitioners and physician assistants can absolutely prescribe opiates, but they can't prescribe treatment for the addiction to the opioids for which they've written scripts for," said Haile. "So, what we're finding is there are situations where there are a large number of people who are getting addicted, but the provider that unwittingly got them addicted is no longer able to help them. They can't be a part of the solution and they can't write the [prescription] for the first line most effective treatment to treat that addiction."

Haile is asking lawmakers to take up the cause and change Tennessee law to allow nurse practitioners to prescribe the drug. Haile said Tennessee would be the last state to do so.