Breaking News
December 15, 2018 - Research offers hope for patients with serious bone marrow cancer
December 15, 2018 - Link between poverty and obesity is only about 30 years old, study shows
December 15, 2018 - Mass spectrometry throws light on old case of intentional heavy metal poisoning
December 15, 2018 - BeyondSpring Announces Phase 3 Study 105 of its Lead Asset Plinabulin for Chemotherapy-Induced Neutropenia Meets Primary Endpoint at Interim Analysis
December 15, 2018 - Study finds that in treating obesity, one size does not fit all
December 15, 2018 - Tenacity and flexibility help maintain psychological well-being, mobility in older people
December 15, 2018 - Study reveals role of brain mechanism in memory recall
December 15, 2018 - High levels of oxygen encourage the brain to remain in deep, restorative sleep
December 15, 2018 - Experimental HIV vaccine strategy works in non-human primates, research shows
December 15, 2018 - Genetically modified pigs could limit replication of classical swine fever virus, study shows
December 15, 2018 - FDA Approves Herzuma (trastuzumab-pkrb), a Biosimilar to Herceptin
December 15, 2018 - Cost and weight-loss potential matter most to bariatric surgery patients
December 15, 2018 - Cancer Research UK and AstraZeneca open new Functional Genomics Centre
December 15, 2018 - New research lays out potential path for treatment of Huntington’s disease
December 15, 2018 - Prestigious R&D 100 Award presented to Leica Microsystems
December 15, 2018 - Study shows septin proteins detect and kill gut pathogen, Shigella
December 15, 2018 - Study sheds new light on disease-spreading mosquitoes
December 15, 2018 - 2017 Saw Slowing in National Health Care Spending
December 15, 2018 - Monitoring movement reflects efficacy of mandibular splint
December 15, 2018 - Study supports BMI as useful tool for assessing obesity and health
December 15, 2018 - Self-guided, internet-based therapy platforms effectively reduce depression
December 15, 2018 - Organically farmed food has bigger climate impact than conventional food production
December 15, 2018 - Faster, cheaper test has potential to enhance prostate cancer evaluation
December 15, 2018 - Researchers study abnormal blood glucose levels of patients after hospital discharge
December 15, 2018 - Swedish scientists explore direct association of dementia and ischemic stroke deaths
December 15, 2018 - Study finds 117% increase in number of dementia sufferers in 26 years
December 15, 2018 - Eczema Can Drive People to Thoughts of Suicide: Study
December 15, 2018 - Link between neonatal vitamin D deficiency and schizophrenia confirmed
December 15, 2018 - Nurse denied life insurance because she carries naloxone
December 15, 2018 - Ritalin drug affects organization of pathways that build brain networks used in attention, learning
December 15, 2018 - Research pinpoints two proteins involved in creation of stem cells
December 15, 2018 - Gut bacteria may modify effectiveness of anti-diabetes drugs
December 15, 2018 - Breast cancer protection from pregnancy begins many decades later, study finds
December 15, 2018 - How often pregnant women follow food avoidance strategy to prevent allergy in offspring?
December 15, 2018 - Using machine learning to predict risk of developing life-threatening infections
December 15, 2018 - How imaginary friends could boost children’s development
December 15, 2018 - Folate deficiency creates more damaging chromosomal abnormalities than previously known
December 15, 2018 - Study provides new insights into molecular mechanisms underlying role of amyloid in Alzheimer’s disease
December 15, 2018 - For the asking, a check is in the mail to help pay for costly drugs
December 15, 2018 - UA scientists uncover biological processes leading to rare brain disorder in babies
December 15, 2018 - The largest database on industrial poisons
December 15, 2018 - ESMO Immuno-Oncology Congress showcases novel technologies set to benefit many cancer patients
December 15, 2018 - Ovid Therapeutics Announces Plans to Move into a Phase 3 Trial in Pediatric Patients Based on End-of-Phase 2 Meeting for OV101 in Angelman Syndrome
December 15, 2018 - Left ventricular noncompaction – Genetics Home Reference
December 15, 2018 - Children’s sleep not significantly affected by screen time, new study finds
December 15, 2018 - When should dementia patients stop driving? A new guidance for clinicians
December 15, 2018 - Researchers use INTEGRA’s VIAFLO 96/384 to streamline the experimental workflow
December 15, 2018 - Researchers discover protein involved in nematode stress response
December 15, 2018 - Cancer patients have greater risk of developing shingles, study shows
December 14, 2018 - UAlberta scientists identify biomarkers for detecting Alzheimer’s disease in saliva samples
December 14, 2018 - Study uncovers link between tube travel and spread of flu-like illnesses
December 14, 2018 - Caffeine plus another compound in coffee may fight Parkinson’s disease
December 14, 2018 - GW researchers review studies on treatments for prurigo nodularis
December 14, 2018 - Lack of peds preventive care ups unplanned hospital admissions
December 14, 2018 - Miscarriage: When Language Deepens Pain
December 14, 2018 - New method helps better understand pathological development of ALS
December 14, 2018 - Intellectually active lifestyle confers protection against neurodegeneration in Huntington’s patients
December 14, 2018 - Mammalian collagen nanofibrils become stronger and tougher with exercise
December 14, 2018 - Considerable Morbidity, Mortality Due to Animal Encounters
December 14, 2018 - Researchers find inhibiting one protein destroys toxic clumps seen in Parkinson’s disease
December 14, 2018 - How early physical therapy can lessen the long-term need for opioids
December 14, 2018 - Depression, suicide rates highest in Mountain West states
December 14, 2018 - New model could cure the potential to underestimate how quickly diseases spread
December 14, 2018 - Exercise-induced hormone activates cells critical for bone remodeling in mice
December 14, 2018 - Researchers discover new mechanism behind spread of malignant pleural mesothelioma
December 14, 2018 - Health Tip: Celebrate a Healthier Holiday
December 14, 2018 - Scalpel-free surgery enhances quality of life for Parkinson’s patients, study finds
December 14, 2018 - Early physical therapy can reduce risk, amount of long-term opioid use | News Center
December 14, 2018 - Genetic marker, predictor of early relapse in common childhood cancer discovered
December 14, 2018 - Study could lead to a potential new way of treating sepsis
December 14, 2018 - New protein complex helps embryonic stem cells to maintain their indefinite potential
December 14, 2018 - Salk professor receives $1.8 million from NOMIS Foundation for research on mechanisms to promote health
December 14, 2018 - New discovery will improve the safety and predictability of CRISPR
December 14, 2018 - Geneticists discover how sex-linked disorders arise
December 14, 2018 - New method to visualize small-molecule interactions inside cells
December 14, 2018 - Study describes mechanism that makes people more vulnerable to hunger-causing stimuli
December 14, 2018 - Chronic opioid therapy associated with increased healthcare spending and hospital stays
December 14, 2018 - Blood Types
December 14, 2018 - Obesity linked to increased risk of early-onset colorectal cancer
December 14, 2018 - Blood test helps identify distinct molecular signatures in children with cystic fibrosis
Congress tackles the opioid epidemic. But how much will it help?

Congress tackles the opioid epidemic. But how much will it help?

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

The nation’s opioid epidemic has been called today’s version of the 1980s AIDS crisis.

In a speech Monday, President Donald Trump pushed for a tougher federal response, emphasizing a tough-on-crime approach for drug dealers and more funding for treatment. And Congress is upping the ante, via a series of hearings — including one scheduled to last Wednesday through Thursday — to study legislation that might tackle the unyielding scourge, which has cost an estimated $1 trillion in premature deaths, health care costs and lost wages since 2001.

Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician by training and the health commissioner for hard-hit Baltimore, said Capitol Hill has to help communities at risk of becoming overwhelmed.

“We haven’t seen the peak of the epidemic. We are seeing the numbers climb year after year,” she said.

Provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that almost 45,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in the 12-month period ending July 2017, up from about 38,000 in the previous cycle. (Those data are likely to change, since many death certificates have not yet been reported to the CDC.)

“It’s not going to get any better unless we take dramatic action,” Wen said.

And the time for most meaningful change could be dwindling. Advocates say what they need most is money, which would most likely come through the government spending bill that’s due March 23. But they aren’t holding their breath.

Show Me The Money

The federal budget deal, which was signed into law in early February, promised $6 billion over two years for initiatives to fight opioid abuse. Congress is still figuring out how to divvy up those funds. The blueprint is expected to be included in the spending bill this week.

Last month, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill that would add another $1 billion in funding to support expanded treatment and also limit clinicians to prescribing no more than three days’ worth of opioids at a time.

That legislation is likely to have wide support in the Senate, but its path through the House is less certain.

This cash infusion is still not going to be enough, predicted Daniel Raymond, policy director for the Harm Reduction Coalition, a national organization that works on overdose prevention.

“It’s not clear whether there’s a real appetite to go as far as we need to see Congress go,” he said. “To have a fighting chance, we need a long-term commitment of at least $10 billion per year.” Academic experts said that assessment sounded on target.

The figure is more than three times what’s allocated in the budget and 10 times what even the new Senate bill would provide, and far beyond the spending levels put forth by any previous packages to fight the opioid epidemic.

The difficulty in getting funding — and a key reason why the bipartisan Senate bill might stall in the House — in part goes to the heart of Republicans’ philosophy about budgeting.

The GOP, which controls both chambers of Congress, has “always been very focused on pay-fors,” said a Republican aide to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, explaining that new funding is generally expected to be accompanied by cuts in current expenditures so that overall government spending doesn’t rise. And that could limit how much money lawmakers are ultimately willing to commit to fight opioid abuse.

Some observers worry this notion is pound-foolish.

“We have an enormous set of costs ahead of us if we don’t invest now,” said Dr. Traci Green, an associate professor of emergency medicine and community health science at Boston University, who has extensively researched the epidemic.

Ahead In Congress

Meanwhile, the House could take up its version of a separate Senate-passed proposal designed to, in certain cases, make more prominent any opioid history in a patient’s medical record. The idea is to prevent doctors from prescribing opioids to at-risk patients.

In addition, the House’s Energy and Commerce Committee in late February held a hearing focused on “enforcement” — discussing, for instance, giving the federal Drug Enforcement Administration more power in drug trafficking, and whether to treat fentanyl, a particularly potent synthetic opioid, as a controlled substance. This week’s hearings will tackle a slew of public health-oriented bills, such as making sure overdose patients in the emergency room get appropriate medication and treatment upon discharge, or expanding access to buprenorphine, which is used to treat addiction.

And the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare — the federal insurance plan for seniors and disabled people — is working to develop strategies that limit access to opioids and make treatment more available.

These are some promising ideas, Raymond said, but it’s still “playing catch-up. … The big gap is the money, and the broader vision.”

This flurry of activity comes after Congress in 2016 passed two laws directly dealing with addiction and substance abuse disorders, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and the 21st Century Cures Act. CARA promised $181 million — although it didn’t appropriate those dollars — while the Cures Act provided $1 billion over two years.

It’s playing out against the backdrop of steady policy tensions.

The Trump administration, which in October declared the opioid epidemic a public health crisis, has repeatedly pushed a more punitive approach, such as harsher sentences for drug trafficking, including the death penalty and establishing mandatory minimum sentences. That emphasis, experts said, detracts from other parts of the plan that might highlight, say, addiction treatment.

Instead, those experts emphasized treatment and prevention as well as “harm reduction” ideas such as providing more overdose-antidote medication and funding programs like syringe exchanges.

They say focusing on punishment has been ineffective in the past and neglects the heart of the issue.

Certainly, curbing the flow of illegal drugs is important, Wen said. But it’s insufficient by itself. And the size of the problem means lawmakers need to provide quicker, more direct aid — not just proposals that tinker “around the edges.”

“We would never refuse any funding, because we need it desperately,” she said. “But ask us what we need.”


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles