CEPOP and MAPDA Convene Ground-Breaking Webinar Series on the Confluence of COVID-19 and the Opioid Epidemic

Over the last five weeks, CEPOP and MAPDA successfully executed a series of four webinars focused on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on various components of the nation’s ongoing opioid epidemic. Throughout these sessions, speakers and attendees explored areas of interest such as digital health/telemedicine, medication-assisted treatment, overdose reversal drugs, and safe disposal. Combined, the series drew more than 1,000 registrations across the four events and has already been viewed countless times through the on-demand function.

Thank you to all who attended the sessions and who provided input on the speakers/structure.

Recordings and related materials from the Webinar Series are available on the CEPOP website.

Please reach out to Matt Rubin with any questions.

HHS OIG Finds Decline in Part D Opioid Prescribing

HHS OIG Finds Decline in Part D Opioid Prescribing
The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General issued a report last week reviewing opioid prescribing patterns within the Medicare Part D program to better understand opioid use, potential risks of misuse or overdose, and augment efforts to address questionable prescribing practices by providers. Overall, the report found at approximately 25% of beneficiaries received an opioid prescription in 2019, totaling $2.8 billion in claims. These numbers were considered to be the lowest recorded rates in the last 3 years and 10 years, respectively. Nearly 210,000 beneficiaries received a MAT prescription in 2019 with access to the overdose reversal drug naloxone continuing to increase.

OIG estimated that 140 Medicare providers were still engaged in potentially dangerous prescribing practices with more than 250,000 beneficiaries receiving high quantities of opioids; nearly 34,000 were considered to be at serious risk. While this is the lowest recorded number in the last several years, additional work needs to be done to educate both beneficiary and provider around safe prescribing and utilization.

Efforts to reign in dangerous prescribing and improve access the evidence-based medication assisted treatment remain critically important, particularly during the current pandemic in which preliminary overdose data indicates a significant rise in misuse, abuse and death.

Articles & Resources

HHS OIG – Opioid Use in Medicare Part D Continued To Decline in 2019, but Vigilance Is Needed as COVID-19 Raises New Concerns

LINK to HHS OIG Report

STAT News – Opioid Prescriptions Written for Medicare Part D Beneficiaries Continues to Drop

Healthy People 2030 Prioritizes Opioid Response

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services released its Healthy People 2030 plan that outlined the agency’s 10-year strategy to address some of the nation’s most pressing public health challenged, including substance and opioid use disorders. In total, the Department has identified 355 core objectives that can be used to measure advancements with 38 focused specifically on reducing drug and alcohol misuse and abuse. Thirty-one of the objectives are metric-based targets with six focused on developmental targets and one research. Baseline objectives are used to help identify initial data sets to help guide public health responses. Developmental objectives focus on high-priority public health interests in which HHS may test the efficacy of particular evidence-based interventions. The sole research-based objective will help to better understand the potential types of evidence-based interventions that might be effective given the previous data collections.

Articles & Resources

HHS Newsroom – HHS Releases Healthy People 2030 with National Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Objectives for the Next Decade

LINK to HHS 10-Year Plan

LINK to HHS Drug and Alcohol Use Objectives

Bipartisan, Bicameral Effort Launched to Combat Foreign-Sourced Fentanyl

Last week, bipartisan forces in both the House and Senate introduced the Fighting Emerging Narcotics Through Additional Nations to Yield Lasting (FENTANYL) Results Act which aims to better align global forces in the fight against global synthetic and illicit narcotic trafficking. As we’ve reported on in previous Policy Reports, recent data from the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System indicates a continued rise in overdose deaths attributed to fentanyl and other synthetic drugs, responsible for the greatest percentage of deaths tied to the epidemic.

In the House, the bill is led by Congressman David Trone (D-MD) and Michael McCaul (R-TX). Senate co-sponsors include new Democrat Jeanne Shaheen (NH) and Republican Rob Portman (OH).

“While the US has taken important steps to combat the opioid crisis here at home, we must also identify and address international flows of lethal drugs into the US, most of which come from China…By bolstering international law enforcement cooperation and capacity, we can stop illegal drugs at the source and help curb the devastating opioid crisis that has ravaged communities across our nation,” said Congressman McCaul.

If your organization is interested in endorsing this legislation, please contact Matthew Rubin.

Articles & Resources

Sen. Shaheen Newsroom – Shaheen Introduces Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Increase Global Cooperation in Fight Against Synthetic Drug Trafficking

Rep. Trone Newsroom – Following Record Number of Synthetic Overdose Deaths, U.S. Reps. Trone, McCaul and U.S. Senators Shaheen, Portman Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Increase Global Cooperation in Fight Against Synthetic Drug Trafficking

LINK to H.R. 7990

LINK to S. 4514

Opioid Plaintiffs Push for $26 Billion Settlement

Last week, the Wall Street Journal first reported an uptick in the settlement demand between states and several pharmaceutical supply chain companies related to the nation’s prescription opioid epidemic. Led by state attorneys general from a dozen states, these discussions renew a dialogue from earlier this year that set settlement terms around $18 billion that promptly rejected by the attorneys general. As we proceed closer to a new set of state-based trial set to begin in October, settlement discussions are expected to ramp back up in search of a conclusion to the litigation and avoidance of a trial.

Articles & Resources

Wall Street Journal – States Seek $26.4 Billion from Drug Companies in Opioid Litigation

Forbes – Multiple States Seeking $26.4 Billion from Drug Companies Over Opioid Crisis: Report

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

The Guardian – Purdue Pharma Escaped Serious Charges Over Opioid in 2006, Memo Shows

Bloomberg – Purdue Pharma Caused $2.15 Trillion in U.S. Economic Damage, States Say

Forbes – Detecting Drug Theft and Misuse in Hospitals Should Be No Accident

The Hill – West Virginia Sues CVS, Walmart for Aiding Opioid Epidemic

The Philadelphia Inquirer – Grandmother Wants Daughter’s Opioid OD Last Month to be a Warning

DrFirst Survey – Americans Think They Know Whether or Not They Are Prescribed an Opioid, But They’re Wrong

The Island Packet – Beaufort Hospital Pharmacist Stole Opioids from his Employer, Warrants Say

Baltimore Sun – American Medical Association Calls on Maryland and Other States to Act on Increase in Opioid Overdoses

Scientific American – Fighting Back Against the Stigma of Addiction

Pharmacy Technology Report – Website Shines Light on Diversion During COVID-19

Financial Times – Addiction Recovery Online: A Pandemic Silver Lining

JAMA Network Open – National Patterns in Prescription Opioid Use and Misuse Among Cancer Survivors in the United States

NIH News Release – NIH Study Suggests Opioid Use Linked to Pregnancy Loss, Lower Chance of Conception

JAMA Network Open – Association of Pregnancy and Insurance Status With Treatment Access for Opioid Use Disorder

CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report – Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution within Syringe Service Programs – United States, 2019

Office of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf – Gov. Wolf Signs 11th Renewal of Opioid Disaster Declaration to Continue Work to Aid in Opioid Epidemic

Office of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf – Wolf Administration: Third Naloxone Standing Order Allows Naloxone to be Obtained by Mail

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania – New Jersey Man Sentenced to Three Years in Prison and Over $9 Million in Restitution for Drug Rehab Health Care Fraud Scheme

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky – Northern Kentucky Physician Indicted for Illegal Distribution of Controlled Substances

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio – Hamilton Physician Who Was Convicted at Trial of Illegally Dealing Opioids Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas – Houston Rapper Charged in Narcotics and Prescription Opioid Conspiracy

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama – Birmingham Doctor and Co-Conspirators Sentenced for $7.8 Million Health Care Fraud, Unlawful Drug Distribution, and Money Laundering

This Week’s Calendar

The House and Senate have no opioid-related hearings or events scheduled at this time as they remain in August recess pending any further advances related to a comprehensive pandemic response. In the instance that there are any changes to the schedule for this week, we will make additional information available.

  • The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
    Caring for People with Mental health and Substance Use Disorders in Primary Care Settings
    Wednesday, August 26; 12:00pm – 3:30pm; Registration Link
  • SAMHSA Center for Mental Health Services
    National Advisory Council Meeting
    Thursday, August 27; 10:00am; LINK

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