This Week's News in Substance Use: 5/19/17

Bipartisan Group of Senators Push Back On Sessions’s Order to Pursue Most Severe Penalties, The Washington Post

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s former colleagues in the Senate are pushing back on his order to federal prosecutors to pursue the most severe penalties possible for defendants, including mandatory minimum sentences, and introducing legislation to give federal judges more discretion to impose lower sentences.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who co-sponsored the legislation, said that Sessions’s new policy will ‘accentuate’ the existing ‘injustice’ in the criminal justice system.

‘Mandatory minimum sentences disproportionately affect minorities and low-income communities, while doing little to keep us safe and turning mistakes into tragedies,” Paul said. ‘As this legislation demonstrates, Congress can come together in a bipartisan fashion to change these laws.’”

Against The Odds, Emergency Rooms Are Getting People into Addiction Treatment, Philly.com

"The emergency room seems an ideal place to intervene. A revived patient has just experienced a potentially life-changing event. Hospitals have resources, including doctors and nurses who are passionate about saving lives.

It turns out not to be that easy. Treatment beds are in short supply almost everywhere, forcing a wait of several days even for those who would jump at the chance to get clean. Many people don't have insurance. Hard-to-change practices — some enshrined in regulations, others history and habit — may make a smooth transfer impossible even when everyone involved wants the same thing."

New York County Sues Purdue Pharma and Johnson & Johnson Over Opioid Marketing, Fortune

A county in New York state has sued Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson and other drugmakers, accusing them of engaging in fraudulent marketing that played down the risks of prescription opioid painkillers, leading to a drug epidemic.

The lawsuit, which also named units of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Endo International as defendants, was announced on Monday by Orange County, New York, which is located in the southeastern part of the state.

After an Officer Accidentally Overdoses On Fentanyl, a Police Chief Calls For Stronger Laws, STAT News

“After one of his officers accidentally overdosed during a search and seizure, the police chief of the opioid-besieged town of East Liverpool, Ohio, is calling for stronger penalties for transporting fentanyl and related drugs, and his officers are no longer field testing what they find while on duty.

‘It’s just too dangerous,’ East Liverpool Police Chief John Lane told STAT on Tuesday. ‘It’s not worth the risk.’”

Price's Remarks On Opioid Treatment Were Unscientific And Damaging, Experts Say, NPR

“Addiction experts are up in arms over remarks by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in which he referred to medication-assisted treatment for addiction as ‘substituting one opioid for another.’

Nearly 700 researchers and practitioners sent a letter Monday communicating their criticisms to Price and urging him to ‘set the record straight.’

The medicines Price referred to are methadone and buprenorphine, both of which are opioids. The letter notes that there is a "substantial body of research" showing the drugs' effectiveness and that they have been the standard of care for addiction treatment for years.”

U.S., Mexico Bolster Efforts to Combat Deadly Tide of Fentanyl, New York Times

The United States and Mexico pledged to step up efforts to beat the growing threat of fentanyl, a synthetic opiate up to 50 times more lethal than heroin blamed for the deaths of thousands of people in recent years, including rock star Prince.

A U.N. body in March added to an international list of controlled substances two chemicals used to make fentanyl, which the United States said would help fight a wave of deaths by overdose of the painkiller.

Opioid Epidemic Looms Over Senate's Medicaid Talks, Washington Examiner

"Senators from states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act are worried about the fate of their residents, especially those affected by the opioid crisis. The trepidation is a big hurdle right out the gate for Senate Republicans working on their own Obamacare repeal legislation after the House passed a bill earlier this month.

‘We're just trying to make sure that at a time we are facing this crisis, we are not making things worse,’ said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.”