“White House counselor Kellyanne Conway will be the point person for the Trump administration’s opioid crisis efforts…

President Donald Trump tapped Conway to help “change the perception” about opioids and reduce addictions and deaths, Sessions said at a press briefing about the Justice Department’s efforts to combat the crisis. Sessions said Trump had made the epidemic “a top priority for his administration, including every senior official and Cabinet member.”
Conway worked as a pollster before becoming Trump’s campaign manager, and she now serves as a White House spokeswoman and Trump surrogate. She has become notorious for defending some of Trump’s most blatant mistruths, and she pioneered the term “alternative facts” to excuse the president’s troubles with the truth.
She has no formal experience in drug policy or law enforcement. Conway has a law degree and started her own polling company, The Polling Company, in 1995, often consulting on consumer trends. She worked as an adviser for several Republicans, including Mike Pence and Newt Gingrich.
In the past, she has shared Sessions and Trump’s view on defeating drug abuse: Strict prevention programs. “The best way to stop people from dying from overdoses and drug abuse is by not starting in the first place,” she told Fox News in October. “That’s a big core message for our youth.” (A)

“The Justice Department on Wednesday said it is stepping up enforcement efforts to combat the opioid crisis.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the agency will dedicate $12 million in grants to help police target illegal manufacturers and dealers of prescription opioids, heroin and methamphetamine.
The department is also directing U.S. attorneys around the country to designate an “opioid coordinator” for each office, and the Drug Enforcement Agency will open a new field division in Louisville to cover Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia, where communities have suffered particularly high rates of opioid addiction.
“I’m convinced that our law enforcement efforts save lives, because they prevent new addictions from starting. By enforcing our laws, we keep illegal drugs out of the country, reduce their availability, drive up their price and reduce their purity,” Sessions said at a brief press conference at Justice Department headquarters.
Opioid addiction rates have skyrocketed in recent years, with more than 140 Americans a day dying from opioid overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The announcement suggests the Trump administration is prioritizing a law enforcement response to the opioid crisis even as questions linger about how it plans to approach the public health aspect of treating addiction.” (B)

“The President’s Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) recently issued a report stating that the economic costs of the opioid crisis have been greatly underestimated. When previous researchers crunched the numbers, they did not factor in the monetary worth of each life that is lost involving opioids.
According to economists, the value of each decedent’s life is called the “value of a statistical life,” or VSL. Several federal agencies use VSL to inform regulatory decision-making.
The CEA recalculated the previously reported economic cost of the opioid crisis so that it now includes a value for each human life lost involving an opioid. For that calculation, the CEA used the figure of 33,091 opioid-related deaths and 2.4 million people with opioid addictions in 2015. The cost was composed of $431.7 billion for the cost of fatalities, and $72.3 billion for the cost of non-fatal abuse and addiction.
In other words, there are now two financial consequences given for opioids: one that includes the loss of human lives (fatalities), and one that does not (abuse and addiction that does not lead to death).
The non-fatal costs are for health care, workplace, drug treatment, and criminal justice costs mostly, lost productivity and crime. Then there are the costs of fatalities.
According to the CEA report, the total cost of opioid-related deaths is estimated at $504 billion in 2015. Divide that by the number of opioid-related deaths — 33,091 — and we see that the CEA has assigned roughly a $15 million value to each life lost.” (C)

“A better explanation points to something uniquely American: the U.S. medical-industrial complex, which has facilitated the massive proliferation of prescription painkillers.
In the 1990s, doctors faced pressure to treat pain more seriously as “the fifth vital sign.” They turned to opioids, which pharmaceutical companies were pushing hard (and as recent lawsuits allege, in the name of profit) as a safe solution. The U.S. health care system equates quality of care with the ability of doctors and hospitals to deliver what patients ask for, incentivizing providers to pull out the prescription pad. In 2012, doctors wrote 259 million opioid prescriptions—enough to give a pill bottle to every adult in the country. Twelve states had more prescriptions than people. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services even links reimbursements to patient surveys that ask whether “your doctors did everything they could to help with your pain.”
As the maker of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma has been pummeled by controversy since the opioid hit the market in 1996. The company has poured many millions of dollars into promoting Oxy, and made billions in return. But an increasing number of public officials and medical professionals see the revenues as tainted because they say Purdue has knowingly stoked the escalating epidemic of opioid abuse by consistently making false claims about a drug linked to thousands of deaths.
“This was the perfect storm — a push to ask for painkillers, higher dosing, more powerful medications and erroneous studies that said that these drugs were not addicting,” said Dr. Arun Nandi, chairman of emergency medicine at Stamford Hospital.” (D)

“The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is moving ahead to address the opioid crisis via the power given by the public health emergency declaration issued by President Donald J. Trump in October, but it is looking to Congress to provide the funding, HHS officials said at a press briefing.
“We’re looking forward to hearing from Congress as to how they intend to address this,” said Acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan at the briefing. He noted that the House has proposed $15 billion in funding and that the Senate has proposed $45 billion.
The Trump administration intends “to work closely with Congress to help develop those numbers further,” said Hargan, adding, “I think the fact that they put those kind of numbers in shows that the congressional leadership is taking this seriously, as is President Trump and his whole administration.”” (E)

“Opioid-driven deaths during hospital stays in the United States quadrupled between 1993 and 2014, according to a new study released Monday.
The study found that patients admitted to the hospital for opioid use skewed young — 39 years old on average — and white. From 1993 to 2014, the number of black and Hispanic patients admitted to hospitals for opioid or heroin poisoning remained fairly stable. But that rate among white patients doubled between 2007 and 2013; with about 30,000 cases, they were the “largest and fastest-growing share of hospitalizations” in recent years, according to the study published Monday in the journal Health Affairs.
Why are people dying with opioids in their bodies after they arrive at the hospital? Song said the data alone can’t answer that question, but he offered a few possible explanations.
The presence of fentanyl and heroin nationwide is growing in communities across the country, often at prices that are cheaper than prescription opioids, such as oxycodone, he said. And efforts to treat people where they are — in the field, or at clinics or urgent care facilities — could mean that hospitals tend to admit patients who “are higher risk and more severe,” he said….
Michael Botticelli, who served as drug czar during the Obama administration and currently directs the Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center, said the study makes the case for more hospitals to adopt intervention and treatment programs to combat the nation’s ongoing opioid epidemic and rising number of overdose deaths.” (F)

“It’s become an almost daily routine: Some panel, discussion, summit, commission, hearing, project, or report claims to have the answer to America’s historically deadly opioid crisis. The latest pathetic “solution,” of course, is the (weirdly disputed) emergence of longtime Republican pollster, Donald Trump “alternative facts” adviser, and noted public health expert Kellyanne Conway as some kind of alleged “opioid czar.” I say alleged because even though Attorney General Jeff Sessions suggested last week that she had the gig, the White House later said she was merely continuing existing work on the issue.
Who’s telling the truth? …The time for talk is over. In the past three years alone, more than 100,000 Americans have died of opioid overdose. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children—a tremendous loss. Conway is close to President Trump and this news has been taken by some as a signal that he’s finally serious about addressing opioids. But what does that even mean when no new money is being appropriated, healthcare cuts may be on the way, and no actual “drug czar” has been named to coordinate strategy, among other glaring gaps in the administration’s response to this disaster?” (G)

President Donald Trump has donated his third-quarter salary of $100,000 toward battling the opioid crisis….
In October, Trump declared opioid addiction a “public health emergency.” But so far, the administration hasn’t asked for more money to fight the crisis, and the fund for public health emergencies has only about $57,000.” (H)

(A) Kellyanne Conway Will Run White House’s Opioid Crisis Efforts, by Melina Delkic, http://www.newsweek.com/kellyanne-conway-lead-white-house-opioid-crisis-efforts-726249
(B) Sessions Steps Up Enforcement Actions in Opioid Crisis, by Alan Neuhauser, https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2017-11-29/sessions-steps-up-enforcement-actions-in-opioid-crisis
(C) Evaluating the CEA’s cost estimates of the opioid crisis, by DR. LYNN R. WEBSTER, http://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/362398-evaluating-the-ceas-cost-estimates-of-the-opioid-crisis
(D) Big pharma’s role in the opioid crisis, by Paul Schott, http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/business/article/Big-pharma-s-role-in-the-opioid-crisis-12396414.php
(E) Trump Administration Looks to Congress for Opioid Crisis Funding, by Alicia Ault, https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/889562
(F) Deaths during opioid-driven hospital stays have quadrupled, by Laura Santhanam
(G) https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/deaths-during-opioid-driven-hospital-stays-have-quadrupled
(H) Trump Donates $100,000 Third-Quarter Salary To Fight Opioid Crisis, by Lindsey Pulse and Ethan Weston, https://www.newsy.com/stories/trump-donates-third-quarter-salary-to-fight-opioid-crisis/

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