Healio Special Report: Health Care and Politics
Healio Special Report: Health Care and Politics
October 26, 2017
3 min read

Trump declares opioid epidemic 'public health emergency'

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President Donald J. Trump on Thursday made the long-anticipated declaration that the opioid addiction crisis is a public health emergency.

During a 30-minute press conference, Trump announced a litany of initiatives under the emergency declaration, including an aggressive public service announcement campaign, expansion of inpatient substance abuse treatment resources and new forthcoming guidelines from HHS.

“It is time to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction. We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic,” Trump said, promising a flood of anti-addiction funding to state governments.

“Ending the epidemic will require a mobilization of government, local communities and private organizations,” he said. “It will require the resolve of an entire country.”

The president also promised efforts between the NIH and pharmaceutical companies to develop nonaddictive pain medications.

“I will be pushing the concept of nonaddictive painkillers very, very hard,” he said, adding that the White House was pushing to have one “truly evil” opioid removed from the market. He did not name the drug, however.

Containing the epidemic would be a years-long process, he added, saying that it would “get worse before it gets better.

“But get better it will,” Trump said.

The opioid epidemic kills dozens of people every day in the U.S., according to recent data released by the CDC. The agency has already made significant financial investments in the issue, awarding $28.6 million to 44 states to fight opioid addiction last month, on top of $12 million awarded in July. Other organizations are doing their part, with multiple medical groups banding together to request that the FDA remove several “ultra-high dosage” drugs from the market.

A comprehensive report containing details of the epidemic, and possible solutions, will be completed next week, the president said.

In the wake of Trump’s declaration, Healio.com has compiled five recent articles that show the scope of the opioid crisis, as well as what health care professionals are doing to fight it. – by Andy Polhamus


Generational, bureaucratic obstacles fuel opioid crisis

Opioid abuse is taking a catastrophic toll, with recent CDC data attributing 91 deaths a day to the epidemic. Further, in 2015, 63% of the 52,404 drug overdose deaths involved heroin and opioid pain reliever medications.

Bruce A. Schoneboom, PhD, CRNA, COL, senior director of education and professional development, American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, told Healio Family Medicine that this crisis, at least in part, stems from doctors putting too much emphasis on pain. “Treating pain as the fifth vital sign has had unintended consequences like the overprescription of opioids,” he said.

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Unrestricted coverage of many opioids persists

Although daily allowable dosing of prescription opioids was increasingly restricted between 2006 and 2015 under Medicare Part D formularies, unrestricted coverage of many opioids, especially at high doses, persisted, according to research published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

“Over the past 2 decades, prescription opioid sales and overdose deaths have quadrupled,” Elizabeth A. Samuels, MD, MPH, from Yale University, New Haven, Conn., and colleagues wrote.

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Combatting opioid crisis requires public-private partnership

The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis recently met for its third public meeting to obtain recommendations from physicians and leaders in science and medicine on how to deal with the current opioid epidemic in the United States.

Nearly 27 million Americans suffer from chronic pain and 2 million abuse opioids — most of whom started with prescription medicines, Francis Collins, MD, PhD, director of NIH, noted at the meeting.

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Opioid-related ED visits rose 53% among children within 5 years

CHICAGO — Every day in the United States, approximately 117 children in EDs test positive for opioid abuse or dependence, with reported annual numbers rising from 32,235 in 2008 to 49,626 in 2013, according to research presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics 2017 National Conference & Exhibition.

“Opioid abuse has been perceived as a problem, and it is definitely a problem in adults; yet our study has shown that there is clearly a problem in the pediatric age group,” Veerajalandhar Allareddy, MD, medical director of the pediatric intensive care unit at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital, told Infectious Diseases in Children in an interview.

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Top 10% of privately insured patients account for most opioid use

In a cohort of privately insured U.S. adults, the top 10% of opioid users accounted for 76% of the prescription opioid use, according to a brief research report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

In the report, researchers Eric C. Sun, MD, PhD, assistant professor of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine at Stanford University Medical Center, and Anupam B. Jena, MD, PhD, Ruth L. Newhouse associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, wrote that the CDC recently issued recommendations for opioid prescribing for chronic pain.

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