The U.S. Health and Human Services(HHS) has announced it is expanding its role in reducing prescription opioid and heroin related overdose, death and dependence.
This follows the action of another federal agency, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) last October that reclassified all FDA-approved products containing hydrocodone as Schedule II control substances. Since then, prescribers have been required to write a new prescription for each 30 day supply of a hydrocodone combination product rather than authorizing refills.
The HHS claims it will focus on three priority areas:
- Providing training and educational resources, including updated prescriber guidelines, to assist health professionals in making informed prescribing decisionsand address the over-prescribing of opioids.
- Increasing use of naloxone, as well as continuing to support the development and distribution of the life-saving drug, to help reduce the number of deaths associated with prescription opioid and heroin overdose.
- Expanding the use of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), a comprehensive way to address the needs of individuals that combines the use of medication with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders.
“Opioid drug abuse is a devastating epidemic facing our nation. I have seen firsthand, in my home state of West Virginia, a state struggling with this very real crisis, the impact of opioid addiction. That’s why I’m taking a targeted approach to tackling this issue focused on prevention, treatment and intervention,” said Secretary Sylvia Burwell. “I also know we can’t do this alone. We need all stakeholders to come together to fight the opioid epidemic.”
The government’s emphasis on prescription opioids in has resulted in frustration by pain patients and some providers who believe that access to medication is being reduced.
The National Pain Report published two stories in the last week about a survey that showed pain patients feel they are being unfairly targeted by the federal government. The survey, conducted by the National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association was presented at the 31st annual meeting of the American Academy of Pain Medicine in National Harbor, Maryland. Here’s our story on the survey.
Some of the highlights of that survey were:
- Patient Perspective:A majority of patients (52%) expressed an increased sense of stigma about being a pain patient
- Patient Withdrawal:Patients noted experiencing withdrawal due to the regulation change, 15% because of the difficultly in seeing their HCP
- Patient Challenges: 53% of patients say they are forced to drive more often to see their health care provider, with 42% driving an additional 20 miles or more to see their HCP
The chief spokesperson for the survey is Dr. Steve Passik, Vice President of Clinical Research and Advocacy at Millennium Health.
He told the National Pain Report: ” Where opioids are concerned we dramatically expanded their use and then we went from having one tremendous public health problem, chronic pain to having two by adding the problem of prescription drug abuse and the pendulum has been swinging between the two to try and figure out an effective strategy to keep people with pain treated and to avoid, abuse, addiction, overdose and death.”
What do you think of this latest announcement from HHS?