White House Opioid Summit to Highlight Efforts to Fight Nationwide Epidemic

Conference
The White House is scheduled to convene a summit on the nation’s opioid epidemic Thursday afternoon, the Washington Examiner reports. The summit will include many government officials, including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The newly appointed acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Jim Carroll, will make his first public appearance at the summit. About 200 other participants from outside the Trump Administration will attend, including people presenting nonprofits that focus on addiction and recovery.
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FDA Calls Kratom an Opioid

Kratom_Mitragyna_speciosa
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning that the supplement known as “kratom” is an opioid and has been linked with 44 deaths, The Washington Pos t reports. Kratom, an unregulated botanical substance, is used by some people to relieve pain, anxiety and depression, as well as symptoms of opioid withdrawal. The FDA recently conducted a scientific analysis that provided even stronger evidence of kratom’s opioid properties, the agency said in a statement. “We have been especially concerned about the use of kratom to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms, as there is no reliable evidence to support the use of kratom as a treatment for opioid use disorder and significant safety issues exist,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. The analysis has “contributed to the FDA’s concerns about kratom’s potential for abuse, addiction, and serious health consequences; including death.”
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Hepatitis C Spreads as a Result of Opioid Epidemic

Hep-C
New cases of hepatitis C are on the rise as a result of the nation’s opioid epidemic, according to health officials. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced earlier this year that new hepatitis C cases have almost tripled nationwide in just a few years, The Washington Post reports. The increase is largely due to intravenous drug use among young adults. Hepatitis C can be contracted at any point during the drug injection process, including by using a drug cooker or tourniquet with another person’s blood on it, according to Shruti Mehta of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Treating hepatitis C can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and is limited by insurance and Medicaid, the article notes. Treatment is mostly unavailable to people who are still using illicit drugs.
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Some Cases of Sudden-Onset Amnesia May be Linked With Opioid Use

Some Cases of Sudden-Onset Amnesia May be Linked With Opioid Use
Officials in Massachusetts report a cluster of 14 patients who experienced sudden-onset amnesia, which they suspect was caused by opioids. Thirteen of the patients reported current or past substance abuse, and 12 said they used opioids. Six of the patients said they also used benzodiazepines, while another five said they had used cocaine, HealthDay reports. Report co-author Dr. Alfred DeMaria Jr. said the patients ranged in age from 19 to 52, making it unlikely their memory problems were due to a stroke or dementia. Brain scans of the patients showed abnormalities that appeared to be caused by a toxic substance, the researchers report in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Most patients have improved over time, but two patients still had memory problems after one year. Even among those whose memories have improved, some patients continue to forget directions and other information just given...
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More Than 30,000 Americans Died From Opioid Overdoses Last Year

More Than 30,000 Americans Died From Opioid Overdoses Last Year
Overdose deaths associated with prescription and illicit opioids increased to 33,091 last year, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That number marks an increase of almost 5,000 deaths from the previous year, The Washington Post reports. Deaths from heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl were largely responsible for the increase, the article notes. Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids increased only slightly. This suggests that efforts to reduce the misuse of these drugs may be having an impact, according to a White House news release. “Prescription opioid misuse and use of heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl are intertwined and deeply troubling problems,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden. “We need to drastically improve both the treatment of pain and the treatment of opioid use disorders and increase the use of naloxone to reverse opioid overdose. We must also work collaboratively with our public...
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Synthetic Opioid Known as “Pink” Is Legal in Most States

Synthetic Opioid Known as “Pink” Is Legal in Most States
A synthetic opioid known as “pink” is legal in most states, even though it is almost eight times stronger than morphine, CNN reports. The drug, also known as U-47700, is responsible for dozens of deaths nationwide, the article notes. Adam Kline, Police Chief of White Lake, Michigan, told CNN the drug can be legally purchased on the “dark web” in the form of a powder, pill or nasal spray. Last month, the Drug Enforcement Administration told NBC News it is aware of confirmed deaths associated with the drug in New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin. The drug, along with other synthetic opioids, is being shipped into the United States from China and other countries.
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Spending by Health Insurers Skyrockets for Patients with Opioid Dependence

Spending by Health Insurers Skyrockets for Patients with Opioid Dependence
Spending by health insurance companies increased more than 1,300 percent over four years for patients with an opioid abuse or dependence diagnosis, NPR reports. Spending on insurers’ payments to hospitals, labs, treatment centers and other medical providers for these patients rose from $32 million to $446 million between 2011 and 2015. Insurers spent an average of $3,435 on patients annually, but for those with a diagnosis of opioid dependence or abuse, they spent $19,333. Much of that spending was due to emergency room visits and lab tests. The findings come from Fair Health, a nonprofit databank that provides health industry cost information.
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Study Shows Opioids Increase Risk of Death When Compared To Other Pain Treatments

Study Shows Opioids Increase Risk of Death When Compared To Other Pain Treatments
Long-acting opioids are associated with a significantly increased risk of death when compared with alternative medications for moderate-to-severe chronic pain, according to a Vanderbilt study released in the Journal of the American Medical Assocation (JAMA). Not only did long-acting opioids increase the risk of unintentional overdose deaths, but they were also shown to increase mortality from cardiorespiratory events and other causes. The story appeared in Vanderbilt University’s Research News @ Vanderbilt. Lead author Wayne Ray, Ph.D., and colleagues with the Vanderbilt Department of Health Policy studied Tennessee Medicaid patients between 1999-2012 with chronic pain, primarily back and other musculoskeletal pain, who did not have cancer or other serious illnesses. Researchers compared those starting a long-acting opioid to those taking an alternative medication for moderate-to-severe pain. Alternative medications included both anticonvulsants — typically prescribed to prevent seizure activity in the brain, treat bipolar disorder or neuropathic pain — and low doses...
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Opioid Use Increases Chronic Pain, Rat Study Finds

Opioid Use Increases Chronic Pain, Rat Study Finds
A new study that finds opioid use increases chronic pain in rats may have important implications for humans, according to researchers from the University of Colorado-Boulder. The researchers found that rats who received morphine for five days experienced chronic pain that continued for several months, by triggering the release of pain signals from spinal cord immune cells called glial cells. The findings may help explain the recent surge in prescription painkiller addiction, Forbes reports. “We are showing for the first time that even a brief exposure to opioids can have long-term negative effects on pain,” study author Peter Grace said in a news release. “We found the treatment was contributing to the problem.” Study co-author Linda Watkins added, “The implications for people taking opioids like morphine, oxycodone and methadone are great, since we show the short-term decision to take such opioids can have devastating consequences of making pain worse and...
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FDA Panel Will Consider Requiring Doctors to Undergo Opioid Prescribing Training

FDA Panel Will Consider Requiring Doctors to Undergo Opioid Prescribing Training
A panel of experts convened by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is meeting this week to consider whether to require doctors to undergo training to prescribe opioid painkillers. Doctors’ groups have resisted mandatory training, The New York Times reports. In 2012, the FDA rejected a recommendation from an expert panel that called for mandatory physician training for opioid prescribing. The panel said such training might help reduce overdose deaths from opioid painkillers. A spokeswoman for the FDA told the newspaper the agency now supports mandatory training. The panel is expected to make a recommendation on Wednesday. Since 2012, the FDA has required companies that make long-acting opioids, such as OxyContin, methadone and fentanyl, to underwrite voluntary medical education courses on prescribing the drugs. Recently, many of those companies said they support requiring physicians to have specific training or expertise in pain management before they can obtain a license from...
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