CDC Overdose Reporting Indicates 8.4% Increase Through February 2020

The CDC’s National Vital Statistics System has been updated to now include data related to February 2020 overdose mortality, with trends indicating further worsening of the nation’s opioid epidemic. Trends over the prior twelve months indicated an 8.4% spike, amounting to more than 74,100 overdose deaths. This number is approximately 150 greater than the month prior and builds upon the 6.6% increase as of January 2020 and 4.8% in December 2019. With overall overdose rates trending upwards, particular attention should be focused towards fentanyl (and other synthetic opioids), cocaine, and psychostimulants, each of which has demonstrated a significant rise in the past 12 months and can be attributed as a main driver of these trends.

Articles & Resources

CDC National Vital Statistics System – Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts

White House Executive Order Aims to Improve Mental Health Support Systems During COVID-19

President Trump issued an Executive Order on Monday afternoon aimed at addressing the opioid epidemic, suicidality, and mental and behavioral health issued during the COVID-19 pandemic. Building upon the administration’s support of mental and behavioral health interventions during the pandemic, the Executive Order creates a formal interagency working group, the Coronavirus Mental Health Working Group, that will provide a report to the President outlining public- and private-sector interventions within 45 days. The Working Group will be chaired by HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Brooke Rollins, Acting Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. Through continued interagency collaboration, the announcement also seeks to identify existing programs and policies to improve access to telehealth, evidence-based therapies, and community resources.

In response to the announcement, Secretary Azar noted, “We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has created or exacerbated serious behavioral health challenges for many Americans, both adding new stresses and disrupting access to treatment. The President’s Executive Order is a welcome opportunity to increase efforts to address the mental health effects of the pandemic, which have already included hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and historic flexibilities to ensure Americans can continue to receive treatment for mental illness and substance use disorders.”

Articles & Resources

White House Newsroom – Executive Order on Saving Lives Through Increased Support For Mental- and Behavioral-Health Needs

HHS Newsroom – Secretary Azar Statement on the Mental Health Executive Order

HHS OIG Reviews State Efforts to Tamp Down Inappropriate Opioid Prescribing and Dispensation

Following on a July 2019 report highlighting eight states’ opioid oversight protocol, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General expanded to eleven states its audit of opioid-related policies and procedures aimed at reducing misuse, abuse and diversion through safe prescribing practices. Alabama, Kentucky and Ohio were added to the prior analysis conducted across Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia.

Through soliciting responses to a questionnaire and further coordination with state officials, the audit looked into five core areas of the localized response:

  • Policies and procedures related to opioid prescribing and monitoring;
  • Utilization of data analytics;
  • Outreach to healthcare providers and patients, including efforts for further training and education;
  • Development and accessibility to opioid-related program; and
  • Other actions aimed at combatting opioid misuse and abuse.

While no recommendations were offered from OIG as part of the report, the auditors did note the presence of comprehensive programs aimed at addressing the national opioid epidemic.

Articles & Resources

HHS Office of Inspector General – Update on Oversight of Opioid Prescribing and Monitoring of Opioid Use: States Have Taken Action To Address the Opioid Epidemic

LINK to Report

SAFE Project and Verde Technologies Launch “Gone for Good” Campaign Targeting At-Home Disposal

Verde Technologies, creator of the Deterra® Drug Deactivation and Disposal System and SAFE Project, both active CEPOP participants, are teaming up for the second Gone for Good® at-home medication disposal campaign. During the first campaign in April, Deterra and SAFE Project gave away 10,000 Deterra Pouches and destroyed nearly one million pills across the nation.

The campaign runs Wednesday, October 1 through Saturday, October 31. Households across the US can go online to and request a Large Deterra Pouch to be sent directly to their home, free of charge. Please feel free to share this link with any of your colleagues or allies in a concerted effort to remove unused and unwanted prescription drugs from the home.

Articles & Resources

LINK to “Gone for Good” Campaign Page

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 Economist – America Has Yet to Turn a Corner on its Opioid Crisis

The Lancet – The Opioid Crisis and the 2020 Election: Crossroads for a National Epidemic

Reuters – OxyContin Maker Purdue nears Guilty Plea Agreement in U.S. Criminal Probe

New York Times – Pointers from Portugal on Addiction and the Drug War

NPR – Some Health Workers Suffering From Addiction Steal Drugs Meant For Patients

Pew Charitable Trust – Opioid Overdose Crisis Compounded by Polysubstance Abuse

The New Yorker – Purdue Pharma and the Sackler Family’s Plan to Keep Its Billions

DEA Newsroom – DEA and Discovery Education Launch Expansion of Operation Prevention

Federal Register – Food and Drug Administration Meeting of the Anesthetic and Analgesic Drug Products Advisory Committee and the Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California – Monterey County Drug Dealer and Mexican Pharmacist Charged in Fentanyl Overdose Death Case

U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey – Ringleader of Gloucester City Drug Ring Admits Trafficking Oxycodone, Adderall, and Xanax and Engaging in SNAP Fraud

This Week’s Calendar

The House and Senate have no opioid-related hearings or events scheduled at this time as they continue to address several pressing topics including a Supreme Court nomination, coronavirus pandemic relief and the forthcoming presidential election. In the instance that there are any changes to the schedule for this week, we will make additional information available.

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