More Doctors in Puerto Rico Qualified to Prescribe Buprenorphine

Submitted by: 02/14/2011 by NIATx NPO

More doctors in Puerto Rico qualified to prescribe buprenorphine

Translation by NIATx. Originally published as Más médicos aptos para tratar con buprenorfina, February 6, 2011,

Ninety practitioners attended a February 5 training to prescribe buprenorphine in an office-based setting. The training took place in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and was organized by the Caribbean Basin & Hispanic Addiction Technology Transfer Center (CBHATTC) of the Universidad Central del Caribe. The eight-hour course, “Using Buprenorphine to Treat Opioid Dependence” included general practitioners, internists, and psychiatrists, among other medical specialties.

“This increases the number of healthcare professionals qualified to offer buprenorphine treatment in Puerto Rico to 250,” says Dr. Angel González, internal medicine specialist and director of the training course.

The federal government approved office-based buprenorphine (which costs about six dollars per tablet on the island) treatment in 2002. It requires physicians to complete an eight-hour training in order to obtain a license to prescribe the medication. “Previously, doctors had to refer patients to specialized treatment programs for medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction,” says González “After completing the training, doctors can treat patients in the privacy of their own offices—just as they would treat a patient with diabetes or hypertension.” A doctor’s ability to offer office-based treatment is one of the main ways buprenorphine differs from methadone treatment.

According to Ibis Carrión, psychologist and director of the CHBATTC, a 2008 survey by Puerto Rico’s Administration for Mental Health and Addiction Services (a state agency that collaborated with the training) showed that 22.7% of Puerto Ricans between the ages of 15 to 74 have used drugs at any time in his or her lifetime.

González explained that buprenorphine stabilizes the brain receptors affected by opioid drugs while decreasing withdrawal symptoms and craving. He said that treatment is available to patients of My Health, Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program, and private plans also cover it. "For the first time some government officials are realizing the importance of addressing this as a public health issue.”

Dr. González is also director of the NIATx Puerto Rico project, a collaboration between NIATx, the Alianza Para Reducir la Insuficiencia de Tratamiento de Adicción en Puerto Rico, some state agencies, and several treatment organizations in the east-central area of Puerto Rico. For more information on NIATx Puerto Rico, visit

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