WASHINGTON, Jan 23 (Reuters) - More healthcare workers can prescribe an opioid medication under a U.S. measure announced on Tuesday that expands treatment options for rural residents with limited access to physicians.
The Drug Enforcement Administration said in a statement it would allow nurses and physician assistants to prescribe buprenorphine for those with an opioid addiction. Previously, only physicians could prescribe the medication.
It cited a 2017 study published by the National Rural Health Association that found 53 percent of rural counties had no physician able to prescribe buprenorphine.
The opioid crisis is a leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 42,000 people in 2016, the highest death toll of any year on record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In October, Trump declared the crisis a public health emergency, which redirected federal resources and loosened regulations to combat opioid abuse.
Reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb; Editing by Richard Chang