New Data Indicates Overall Drop on Opioid Overdoses While Fentanyl Impacts Heighten

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday issued another Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, this time providing additional details around opioid-related overdose deaths in the United States between 2017 and 2018. Overall, the United States experienced a 4.1% drop year-over-year from 70,237 down to 67,367. With the exception of fentanyl, which saw a 10% spike in overdose deaths, overdoses for all opioids, prescription opioids and heroin decreased (by 2%, 13.5%, and 4.1% respectively). Of the more than 67,000 overdose deaths in 2018, approximately 70% (46,802) were opioid-specific which was a 2% decrease from the previous year.

While federal agency partners have commended the now two-year drop in overdose deaths, they note that more is still left to be accomplished in bringing that number down further. “To sustain decreases and continue to prevent and respond to drug overdoses, specifically those involving synthetic opioids, it is critical to have a coordinated response…Medical personnel, emergency departments, public health and public safety officials, substance abuse treatment providers, community-based organizations, and members of the community all play a role in addressing this complex and fast-moving epidemic,” said Dr. Deb Houry, director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and past CEPOP Focus Topic Speaker.


CDC Newsroom – New Data Show Significant Changes in Drug Overdose Deaths

CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report – Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths – United States, 2017-2018

Coronavirus Pandemic Allows For Greater Flexibility in OUD Treatment and Recovery Services

The recent elevation of COVID-19 to a national emergency brought with it some additional opportunities to introduce long-awaited changes to the way in which the treatment of opioid use disorders and substance use disorders are addressed in the US. Over the last week, several federal agencies have put forth guidance or other clarifying documents that better elucidate access, prescribing and dispensation of controlled substances for healthcare providers and patients.

Initial concern was raised by NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow and others around the potential implications of COVID-19 on treatment for individuals with SUDs. In response to these concerns, partners such as SAMHSA and the DEA have provided additional resources to better equip healthcare providers with the tools to effectively treat patients and ensure continuity of care. SAMHSA issued new guidance this week that promulgated blanket exceptions for extended take-home medication policies for patients deemed stable to do so. The DEA subsequently issued a slate of new guidance around the use of telemedicine to prescribe controlled substances, including medication-assisted treatment, at a distant (pursuant to a declaration of a public health emergency) as well as allow for the “doorstep delivery” of controlled substances to individuals otherwise quarantined due to COVID-19 concerns.

The National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD) has compiled a running list of COVID-19 related resources at both the state and federal levels, link provided below.

Articles & Resources

NIDA – COVID-19: Potential Implications for Individuals with Substance Use Disorders

SAMHSA – COVID-19 Guidance for Opioid Treatment Programs

DEA – COVID-19 Information Page

NASADAD – COVID-19 Resources

LINK – Example of State COVID-19 and Opioid Treatment Program Guidance

What We Read Last Week

Several articles were published last week pertaining to the opioid epidemic, covering a variety of different components of the issue. Links to relevant articles are provided below.

Articles & Resources

Journal of the American Medical Association – Association of Opioid Use with Pain and Satisfaction After Dental Extraction

JAMA Surgery – Disappointing Early Results from Opioid Prescribing Limits for Acute Pain

Forbes – State AGs Called to Settle with Purdue Pharma

Bloomberg Government – COVID-19 Shifts More Methadone from Opioid Clinic to Home

HHS Office of Inspector General – States’ Use of Grant Funding for a Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis

Federal Register RFP – Opioid Management in Older Adults

U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin – Dentist Pleads Guilty to Oxycodone Diversion

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania – Doctor Who Pleaded Guilty to Health Care Fraud for “Goodie Bags” Agrees to Resolve Civil Fraud and Controlled Substance Liability for $2.8 Million

U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida – Jacksonville-Area Doctor Pays $850,000 To Settle Allegations She Received Illegal Kickbacks To Prescribe The Fentanyl Drug Subsys

This Week’s Calendar

We hope that everyone is staying safe and healthy during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Given the ongoing circumstances, there are no hearings or relevant events noticed at this time. Upon passage of the Senate’s trillion dollar-plus economic stimulus package, the Chamber is likely to adjourn to recess. The House is likely to remain in recess until an further activity in the Senate. In the instance that there are any changes to the schedule for this week, we will make additional information available.

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