HHS Takes More Steps to Address Opioid Crisis

"The opioid epidemic is one of the most pressing public health issues in the United States. More Americans now die from drug overdoses than car crashes, and these overdoses have hit families from every walk of life and across our entire nation," said Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell. "At HHS, we are helping to lead the nationwide effort to address the opioid epidemic by taking a targeted approach focused on prevention, treatment, and intervention."

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced several new actions this week that the agencys taking to combat the opioid crisis, including expanding access to buprenorphine; a proposal to eliminate any potential financial incentive for doctors to prescribe opioids based on patient experience survey questions; and a requirement for Indian Health Service prescribers and pharmacists to check state Prescription Drug Monitoring Program databases before prescribing or dispensing opioids for pain. HHS also has begun more than 12 new scientific studies on opioid misuse and pain treatment and seeks input to improve and expand prescriber education and training programs, she said.

"The opioid epidemic is one of the most pressing public health issues in the United States. More Americans now die from drug overdoses than car crashes, and these overdoses have hit families from every walk of life and across our entire nation," said Burwell. "At HHS, we are helping to lead the nationwide effort to address the opioid epidemic by taking a targeted approach focused on prevention, treatment, and intervention. These actions build on this approach. However, if we truly want to turn the tide on this epidemic, Congress should approve the president's $1.1 billion budget request for this work."

The new actions build on the HHS Opioid Initiative, which was launched in March 2015 and has three priorities: 1) improve opioid prescribing practices; 2) expand access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder; and 3) increase the use of naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses.

Buprenorphine is a drug frequently used for treating opioid use disorder. A new rule from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration allows practitioners who have had a waiver to prescribe buprenorphine for up to 100 patients for a year or more to now obtain a waiver to treat up to 275 patients. Practitioners can get the waiver if they have additional credentialing in addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry from a specialty medical board and/or professional society, or if they practice in a qualified setting as described in the SAMHSA rule.

For more information on actions HHS has taken to address the crisis, access the department's new Opioid Epidemic fact sheet. It says more people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than in any year on record and that more than 60 percent of drug overdose deaths involved an opioid. During 2014, the most recent year on record, there was a sharp increase in heroin-involved deaths and an increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.

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  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - June 2022

    June 2022

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