SAN ANTONIO (Feb. 13, 2020) — The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has awarded UT Health San Antonio a $7.2 million contract to lead a new collaborative. The collaborative will provide compassionate, evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder throughout the state, regardless of patients’ ability to pay.
Jennifer Sharpe Potter, Ph.D., M.P.H., is leading the Texas Medication for Opioid Use Disorder (TxMOUD) initiative. TxMOUD represents the largest training and technical assistance effort in Texas for opioid use disorder (OUD). The multi-pronged program will educate medical providers in prescribing evidence-based treatment, manage a network of trained health providers throughout the state, administer funding to providers for patients who are unable to pay, and track the initiative’s success and patient outcomes.
“Recovery from opioid use disorder is possible. Most people don’t realize that OUD is a treatable medical condition. These dollars will improve quality of care and provide access to life-saving treatment.” said Dr. Potter, professor of psychiatry and vice dean for research in the Long School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio).
“We are proud to be leading this movement to change how opioid use disorder is treated in Texas because we believe all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect as they navigate treatment options,” she added.
TxMOUD builds on the highly successful program, GetWaivered Texas, that Dr. Potter and her team developed to streamline the Drug Enforcement Agency’s waiver process for prescribing buprenorphine, an FDA-approved medication used to treat OUD. Prescribing buprenorphine requires a DEA X-waiver. With only 1,500 waivered providers in Texas when GetWaivered Texas started in March 2019, the program trained an additional 700 providers in the past year. Through TxMOUD, these providers are encouraged to join a statewide treatment network. Health care providers will have access to ongoing training and support, and communities will have expanded access to treatment. This addresses an issue that is particularly problematic for rural communities.
Research has shown that substance use disorders are a leading cause of disease and death in the U.S. and directly cause cancer, overdose death, psychiatric disorders and suicide. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid overdose is the leading cause of accidental death, exceeding automobile crashes and ﬁrearm fatalities. And a new study published Feb. 5 in the open access journal JAMA Network Open showed that buprenorphine and methadone to be the most successful treatments for patients with OUD.
Clinical trials have shown that buprenorphine can help manage withdrawal symptoms. About 50 percent of people with OUD who take buprenorphine can resume a normal life. The drug reduces opioid craving and relieves withdrawal symptoms, Dr. Potter explained. It also can be prescribed to be used at home, just like an antibiotic. Meanwhile, methadone is a highly regulated medication. To receive methadone, patients must go daily to a specialty clinic. TxMOUD will cover the cost of medication, including buprenorphine and naltrexone (two evidence-based treatments), and other treatment costs for those patients without the ability to pay for care.
“TxMOUD is a critically important initiative, given a recent comparative effectiveness study published in JAMA Network Open, which examined the effectiveness of different treatments for OUD. In this national study, only buprenorphine and methadone reduced overdose and opioid-related symptoms. Importantly, naltrexone inpatient treatment and behavioral interventions did not. This TxMOUD program aligns perfectly with state-of-the-art treatment of opioid use disorder for Texans. We are proud and honored to lead this movement to change how opioid use disorder is treated in Texas,” Dr. Potter said.
The Long School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is named for Texas philanthropists Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long. The school is the largest educator of physicians in South Texas, many of whom remain in San Antonio and the region to practice medicine. The school teaches more than 900 students and trains 800 residents each year. As a beacon of multicultural sensitivity, the school annually exceeds the national medical school average of Hispanic students enrolled. The school’s clinical practice is the largest multidisciplinary medical group in South Texas with 850 physicians in more than 100 specialties. The school has a highly productive research enterprise where world leaders in Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, cancer, aging, heart disease, kidney disease and many other fields are translating molecular discoveries into new therapies. The Long School of Medicine is home to a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center known for prolific clinical trials and drug development programs, as well as a world-renowned center for aging and related diseases.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, dba UT Health San Antonio, is one of the country’s leading health sciences universities and is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. With missions of teaching, research, patient care and community engagement, its schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have graduated more than 37,000 alumni who are leading change, advancing their fields and renewing hope for patients and their families throughout South Texas and the world. To learn about the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit www.uthscsa.edu.