“President Donald Trump on Tuesday vowed his administration would beat the opioid epidemic by beefing up law enforcement, strengthening security on the southern border to stop illegal drugs from entering the country.
Trump, joined in Bedminster, New Jersey, by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and other administration officials, emphasized a tough law-and-order approach, rather than new treatment or social programs, as the White House’s primary strategy for halting an epidemic that kills 142 Americans every day, according to federal statistics. (A)
“President Trump declined yesterday to declare the opioid epidemic sweeping the United States a national emergency, despite a recommendation last week by his own commission. Trump’s top health administrator, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, argued that extra step wouldn’t have helped much anyway — and experts tend to agree. (B)
“How did this happen?
In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers, and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates. This subsequently led to widespread diversion and misuse of these medications before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive. Opioid overdose rates began to increase. In 2015, more than 33,000 Americans died as a result of an opioid overdose, including prescription opioids, heroin, and illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid. That same year, an estimated 2 million people in the United States suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers, and 591,000 suffered from a heroin use disorder (not mutually exclusive). Here is what we know about the opioid crisis:
Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them; Between 8 and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder; An estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin; About 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.
This issue has become a public health crisis with devastating consequences including increases in opioid misuse and related overdoses, as well as the rising incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome due to opioid use and misuse during pregnancy. The increase in injection drug use has also contributed to the spread of infectious diseases including HIV and hepatitis C. As seen throughout the history of medicine, science can be an important part of the solution in resolving such a public health crisis.” (C)
President Trump’s commission on the opioid crisis asked him Monday to declare a national emergency to deal with the epidemic.
The members of the bipartisan panel called the request their “first and most urgent recommendation.”
Mr. Trump created the commission in March, appointing Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey to lead it. The panel held its first public meeting last month and was supposed to issue an interim report shortly afterward but delayed doing so until now. A final report is due in October.
“With approximately 142 Americans dying every day, America is enduring a death toll equal to Sept. 11 every three weeks,” the commission members wrote, referring to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “Your declaration would empower your cabinet to take bold steps and would force Congress to focus on funding and empowering the executive branch even further to deal with this loss of life.”
In addition to seeking an emergency declaration, the commission proposed waiving a federal rule that sharply limits the number of Medicaid recipients who can receive residential addiction treatment.
It also called for expanding access to medications that help treat opioid addiction, requiring “prescriber education initiatives” and providing model legislation for states to allow a standing order for anyone to receive naloxone, a drug used to reverse opioid overdoses. (D)
“Drug wholesalers shipped 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to West Virginia in just six years, a period when 1,728 people fatally overdosed on these two painkillers, according to an investigation by the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
That amounts to 433 of the frequently abused opioid pills for every man, woman and child in the state of 1.84 million people….
The drug distributors say they’re just middlemen in a highly regulated industry and that pills would never get in the hands of addicts and dealers if not for unscrupulous doctors who write illegal prescriptions, and pharmacists who turn a blind eye. (E)
“My own “Aha!” moment came recently after my father had gallbladder surgery and recovered comfortably at home with a single ibuprofen tablet. Wow. It directly contradicted my residency training 15 years ago, when I was taught to give every surgical patient a prescription for 30 to 90 opioid tablets upon discharge. Some of my mentors told me that overprescribing prevents late night phone calls asking for more. The medical community at that time ingrained in all of us that opioids were not addictive and urged liberal prescribing. So that’s exactly what we did.
The hundreds of excessive opioid prescriptions I wrote in 2015 alone (the last year for which national data are available) were a tiny part of the country’s 249 million opioid prescriptions filled that year, almost one for every American adult. Last year, America produced 14 billion opioid pills (40 for every U.S. citizen), mostly paid for by the American public in the form of tax dollars or increasing health insurance premiums.
Take C-section for example, one of the most common operations paid for by Medicaid tax dollars. Some doctors appropriately prescribe five to 10 opioid tablets after the procedure (in combination with non-opioid meds as recommended by the American Pain Society), while other doctors are still doing what I did for years — give every patient a bottle of 30-60 highly addictive opioid tablets. (F)
(A) Trump says he’ll beat opioid epidemic with law-and-order approach, by BRIANNA EHLEY, http://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/08/trump-opioid-epidemic-heroin-241416
(B) The Health 202: Trump doesn’t need to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency, by Paige Winfield Cunningham, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/the-health-202/2017/08/09/the-health-202-trump-doesn-t-need-to-declare-the-opioid-crisis-a-national-emergency/5989eb7530fb045fdaef11bf/?utm_term=.ed73a64ab6bb
(C) Opioid Crisis, https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-crisis
(D) White House Panel Recommends Declaring National Emergency on Opioids, by ABBY GOODNOUGH, (A https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/health/opioid-crisis-trump-commission.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share&_r=0
(E) Probe reveals flood of 780M painkillers in 6 deadly years in West Virginia, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/probe-780-million-painkillers-in-6-years-west-virginia/
(F) Doctors like me must stop overprescribing opioids, by Marty Makary, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/health/opioid-crisis-trump-commission.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share&_r=0