This Week's News in Substance Use: 4/20/18

SUD news 4/20/18

Sessions Tries to Put New Pressure on Drug Companies in Opioid Crisis, The New York Times

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions proposed new regulations on Tuesday that could severely limit the amount of highly addictive opioid pain medication that drug companies can produce and force them to account for scores of illegitimate prescriptions across the country.

“The regulations would change how the Drug Enforcement Administration sets production quotas for drug companies. Those companies would have to work with states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal and state agencies to justify the number of pills they send to medical providers.

“’Under this proposed new rule, if D.E.A. believes that a company’s opioids are being diverted for misuse, then they will reduce the amount of opioids that company can make,’ Mr. Sessions said at an appearance in Raleigh, N.C., according to prepared remarks.”

Opioid Takedown in West Virginia and Michigan Leads to Dozens Arrested, ABC News

“More than a dozen people, including two major distributors, were arrested in a sweeping opioid crackdown Tuesday in West Virginia and Michigan involving hundreds of federal, state and local law enforcement officers, officials said.

“Officials targeted almost 100 people for arrest and said they believe that the takedown, dubbed Operation Saigon Sunset, will dismantle what is known as the Peterson Drug Trafficking Organization, a heroin and fentanyl distribution network based out of Huntington, W.Va., and Detroit, Mich.”

Anguished Families Shoulder the Biggest Burdens of Opioid Addiction, NPR

“There are many different types of costs associated with the opioid epidemic: including emergency response, health care, criminal justice, rehabilitation and lost productivity. It's no wonder the total estimated burden from the epidemic is enormous. Health care research firm Altarum put the figure at $1 trillion since 2001. The White House Council of Economic Advisers estimates that, including lost productivity because of opioid deaths, the total economic cost from the opioid crisis reached $504 billion in 2015 alone.

“The biggest share of that burden is borne by families — who measure the damage not only in financial terms, but in terms of anxiety and heartache.”

Text Messaging Tool May Help Fight Opioid Epidemic, Science Daily

“A new automated text messaging service may curb opioid [misuse] and reduce the likelihood of relapse while also decreasing treatment costs, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine and Epharmix, a St. Louis-based digital health company.

“The service provides automated text messages and phone calls to patients being treated for opioid addiction. Such messages ask patients if they're feeling OK or struggling with potential relapse. Patients also can activate a panic button for immediate help.

“Time saved from monitoring patients through individual phone calls and in-person appointments may trim medical costs and permit health-care workers to treat more patients without accruing heavier workloads.”

'Thank You for Your Service:' Surgeon General's Uniformed Corps Battles Opioid Epidemic, USA Today

“They get mistaken for military officers. But they can rightly accept the praise when strangers say, ‘Thank you for your service.’

“They're the U.S. Public Health Service's Commissioned Corps, a 6,500-strong group of pharmacists, engineers, dentists and others with a broad range of health expertise and a common desire to serve their country, especially the most vulnerable.

“In their dress blue uniforms, they've been to places around the globe — such as Liberia to fight Ebola, Puerto Rico to help with hurricane recovery, and Alaska, where Lt. Cmdr. Courtney Gustin helped deliver babies for the Indian Health Service.

“Now, as the opioid epidemic kills more than 100 people a day and surpasses natural disasters, the corps is up against some challenges from within. It was accused of failing to keep up with the “public health needs of the nation" and requiring modernization in President Trump's proposed 2019 budget.”

Indian Tribes Fear Being Killed Off by Opioid Epidemic, The Washington Times

“While much of the country is suffering, American Indians are particularly reeling from the opioid crisis. Some tribes say it amounts to an existential crisis.

“In separate lawsuits filed this month, the Navajo Nation and Muscogee (Creek) Nation say the opioids crisis is stretching their budgets and resulting in an exodus of younger members, making it difficult to hand down traditions.

“’A generation of children are going to grow up without their parents, and, for far too many, outside of the Navajo Nation the loss of their family and their culture will have a negative impact on their lives and on the vitality of the Navajo Nation as a whole,’ said Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez.”

The Maker of OxyContin Tried to Make It Harder to Misuse. It May Have Led to More Heroin Deaths. Vox

“In 2010, Purdue tried to put an end to this by replacing the old OxyContin with an “abuse-deterrent” formula. When this new pill is crushed, it turns into a gummy-like substance, making it more difficult to snort or inject. This did not eliminate the possibility of misuse— the pill can still be used to get high by ingesting it orally, and there are ways around the reformulation to keep ingesting it by other means. But it did make the process of misusing it a bit harder.

“A new working paper, from researchers William Evans, Ethan Lieber, and Patrick Power, suggests that this really might have made OxyContin less prone to misuse — but with a deadly side-effect: As people decided OxyContin was too much of a hassle, some former OxyContin users moved on to heroin. The subsequent rise in heroin overdose deaths may have been enough, the researchers argued, to match or even outweigh any good that the reformulation of OxyContin did in terms of preventing painkiller overdose deaths — at least in the short term.

“A drug policy expert not involved with the study cautioned that the findings do not mean that the reformulation of OxyContin (or other extended-release opioids) was a bad idea — it did, after all, appear to make an addictive drug less prone to misuse. But the new research suggests that when it comes to tackling the opioid crisis, simply cutting back on the misuse of opioid painkillers is not enough.”

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