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By Jill Drachenberg, Managing Editor
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a proposed rule to aid in the fight against opioid abuse. Announced in conjunction with President Barack Obama’s appearance in a panel discussion at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta, the rule expands access to opioid dependence treatment drug buprenorphine by increasing the patient limit per qualified physician to 200 from 100.
Eighty percent of the world’s pain medications are consumed in the United States, according to Sanjay Gupta, MD, panel discussion moderator at the summit. HHS also the number of accidental overdose deaths from prescription opioids has nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2013, and deaths related to heroin increased 39% between 2012 and 2013. More than 29,000 deaths in 2014 were due to opioids, the highest number in years.
“We’re seeing more people killed because of opioid overdoses than traffic accidents,” Obama said.
In addition to the rule on buprenorphine treatment, the following measures were announced:
The new initiatives come less than a month after HHS released $94 million to 45 states to help health centers improve and expand access to treatment for opioid and heroin addiction. But, as the president said at the panel discussion, “this is an area that’s grossly under-resourced.”
“It’s not enough to provide architecture and structure for more treatment; there has to be actual funding for the treatment,” he said.
If President Obama and supporters in Congress have their way, the funding will come in the form of an additional $1.1 billion that would fund medication-assisted treatment in all states. The current bill, still in the Senate, includes $400 million in state funding.
“If we’re going to have coverage everywhere, we need to have government help,” Obama said.
AHC Media continues closely monitoring all the action on the opioid epidemic. In the February issue of ED Management, author Dorothy Brooks examined what were then the CDC’s draft recommendations on opioid abuse, which weren't without controversy, as well as alternative recommendations made by others. The March issue of Medical Ethics Advisor weighs the ethical boundaries of opioid “pain agreements” while the March issue of Primary Care Reports reviews safe strategies for prescribing opioids. AHC also offers an on-demand webinar detailing safe opioid prescription guidelines.