Opioid Epidemic Recovery Efforts Threatened

Opioid Epidemic Recovery Efforts Threatened

On July 6th, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that prescriptions for opioids including hydrocodone and OxyContin have decreased in recent years [1]. The decline in prescribing rates can be linked to more stringent regulations from the federal government and state operated pain clinics; however, rates are still triple those from 1999, particularly in areas afflicted by diseases such as diabetes and arthritis [2]. Furthermore, while CDC studies have yet to concretely correlate the two phenomena, the rise in regulations on legal opioid substance has occurred in conjunction with heroin and fentanyl overdose rates. Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC, has stated that all “we do know is that when you start people on prescription opioids, the risk of unintended consequences and illicit use goes up” [1].

Dr. Patrice Harris, chair of the AMA’s opioid task force, has stated that the real solution lies in drug monitoring programs, treatment, and education; however, these initiatives are threatened by the potential enactment of the GOP Health Care Bill [2],[4].

In 2014, the Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid coverage on multiple fronts including opioid treatment, marking substance abuse as a disability eligible for benefits [4]. As a result, “as much as 40% of the cost of treatment of addicts has been covered by Medicaid” [5]. Unfortunately, the proposed bill would cut 200 billion from Medicaid coverage of opioid treatment, and allocate a 45 billion fund for the crisis in its place [3]. The proposed fund is meant to be used over a 10 year span, though the cost of the epidemic for the next decade has been estimated to cost up to 183 billion in treatment [5]. While cuts are being made for treatment, opioid manufacturers stand to receive 25.7 billion in tax cuts through the proposed bill. Benefiting companies include those cited in a suit filed by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine in May for their involvement in heightening the opioid epidemic [7]. Experts are calling for a more bipartisan approach to reconstruct the bill, which neither party seems satisfied with [6].

 

References:

1. Abby Goodnough, “Opioid Prescriptions Fall After 2010 Peak, C.D.C. Report Finds,” last modified July 6, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/06/health/opioid-painkillers-prescriptions-united-states.html

2. Maggie Fox, “Opioid Prescriptions Are Down But Not Enough, CDC Finds,” last modified July 6, 2017, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/americas-heroin-epidemic/opioid-prescriptions-are-down-not-enough-cdc-finds-n780041

3. Jonathan Gruber and Angela Kilby, “The Senate health bill would make the opioid epidemic worse. Here’s how,” last modified July 13, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-senate-health-bill-would-make-the-opioid-epidemic-worse-heres-how/2017/07/13/14903e58-671f-11e7-a1d7-9a32c91c6f40_story.html?utm_term=.7897eb621c46

4. Corky Siemaszko, “Senate Health Care Bill NO Fix for Opioid Epidemic, Experts Say,” last modifed July 14, 2017, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/americas-heroin-epidemic/senate-health-care-bill-no-fix-opioid-epidemic-experts-say-n782721

5. Michael Hiltzik, “Here are the hidden horrors in the Senate GOP’s new Obamacare repeal bill, last modified July 14, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-bcra-20170714-story.html

6. Jake Novak, “Forget Obamacare, here’s the real health-care crisis D.C. needs to fix,” last modified June 28, 2017, http://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/28/opioid-epidemic-plans-could-save-failing-gop-health-bill-commentary.html

7. Sam Berger, “The Senate Health Care Bill Would Give Millions to Drug Comapnies Accused of Helping Fuel the Opioid Crisis,” last modified June 30, 2017, https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/healthcare/news/2017/06/30/435351/senate-health-care-bill-give-millions-drug-companies-accused-helping-fuel-opioid-crisis/

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