FDA: Don’t Mix Opioid Addiction Medication with Anti-Anxiety Drugs

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a new warning about mixing medication to treat opioid addiction with anti-anxiety drugs. Both types of drugs slow breathing and brain activity. Combining opioid addiction medications with anti-anxiety drugs can lead to difficulty breathing, coma or death, the agency said. In addition to anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium and Xanax, other drugs that should not be combined with opioid addiction medication include Ambien and Lunesta for insomnia, muscle relaxers Soma and Zanaflex, and antipsychotic drugs Abilify, Invega, and Saphris, the Associated Press reports. Buprenorphine and methadone, also known as medication-assisted treatment, reduce opioid cravings and withdrawal without producing a high. The FDA is requiring changes to medication-assisted treatment drug labels. The new labels recommend that health care providers develop a treatment plan that closely monitors any simultaneous use of these drugs.
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Survey Finds Many Doctors Underprescribing Buprenorphine

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Doctors are underprescribing the opioid addiction medicine buprenorphine, according to a new survey of addiction specialists. Buprenorphine can be used to treat opioid addiction in the privacy of a doctor’s office. Doctors who prescribe the medication must have a waiver allowing them to do so. Until recently, doctors with waivers could prescribe buprenorphine to 100 patients. This year, the cap was raised to 275, HealthDay reports. More than half of the doctors with a waiver said they were not currently prescribing the buprenorphine to capacity, according to the survey, which was presented at the American Psychological Association annual meeting. Doctors who have a waiver but are not using it to capacity said they regularly turn away one to three patients a month who approach them for buprenorphine treatment.
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Justice Department Announces Program to Combat Opioid-Related Health Care Fraud

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a program aimed at combating opioid-related health care fraud, the Associated Press reports. Twelve federal prosecutors will be sent to cities hit hard by opioid addiction. They will analyze data to identify and prosecute individuals that are contributing to the prescription opioid epidemic, Sessions said. They will aim to find “pill mills” and track down physicians and pharmacies that illegally prescribe or distribute opioid painkillers. In a statement, Sessions said the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit “can tell us important information about prescription opioids—like which physicians are writing opioid prescriptions at a rate that far exceeds their peers; how many of a doctor’s patients died within 60 days of an opioid prescription; the average age of the patients receiving these prescriptions; pharmacies that are dispensing disproportionately large amounts of opioids; and regional hot spots for opioid issues.”
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Foster Care Systems Overwhelmed by Opioid Crisis

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Foster-care systems throughout the United States are being overwhelmed by children whose parents are addicted to opioids, according to The Washington Post . The problem is most acute in rural areas. “It’s pretty much every state — except maybe four or five — that have seen an increase in the number of children in foster care,” said John Sciamanna, Vice President of Public Policy at the Child Welfare League of America. “What you are seeing now is just a straining of the system.” In 2012 there were 397,000 children in foster care. By 2015, there were 428,000 children – an increase of 8 percent. Experts say since then, the number has increased dramatically, although concrete numbers are not yet available. The increase in foster children is stretching state budgets, the article notes. There are not enough families willing to take in foster children, and the caseloads of social workers are...
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Opioid Addiction Rose Fivefold from 2010 to 2016

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The number of people covered by the health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield who were diagnosed with an opioid addiction rose almost 500 percent from 2010 to 2016, CNN reports. The findings, from a study by the insurer, found few patients receive any treatment for their addiction. During the study period, there was only a 65 percent increase in the number of patients who received medication-assisted treatment for their addiction. The study found states that have experienced the greatest growth in the use of medication-assisted treatments are not necessarily the areas most impacted by opioid use disorders. High rates of treatment relative to opioid use disorder occur in New England and lower rates occur in the South and parts of the Midwest. Among those 45 and older, women have a higher rate of opioid use disorder than do men, according to the study. Among people younger than 45, men have...
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Few Young People Treated for Opioid Addiction Get MAT

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Only 27 percent of youths treated for opioid addiction receive buprenorphine or naltrexone, known as medication-assisted treatment, a new study finds. “These medications are considered the evidence-based standard of care for opioid addiction by the American Academy of Pediatrics,” said lead researcher Dr. Scott Hadland of Boston University School of Medicine. Buprenorphine (sold as Suboxone) has been shown to reduce cravings, while naltrexone (sold as Revia and Vivitrol) blocks the high from opioids, HealthDay reports. The rate of opioid addiction among teens and young adults shot up almost sixfold between 2001 and 2014, the researchers note in JAMA Pediatrics . Hadland said one reason so few young people receive medication-assisted treatment is that too few pediatricians and family doctors are trained in how to treat opioid addiction. “In light of the national opioid crisis, it’s really now more important than ever to ensure that providers are receiving the training,” he...
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Drug Overdose Deaths Rose 19 Percent in 2016

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Drug overdose deaths increased 19 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to a preliminary analysis of data by The New York Times . Evidence suggests the problem, driven by opioid addiction, has continued to worsen this year. An influx of fentanyl and similar drugs is escalating the death count. Drug overdoses are currently the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50, the article notes. Large increases in drug overdose deaths were seen last year in Maryland, Florida, Pennsylvania and Maine. In Ohio, overdose deaths rose by more than 25 percent. The New York Times came up with its estimate based on drug overdose statistics from state health departments, county medical examiners and coroners’ offices. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will calculate final 2016 overdose totals in December.
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NIH Announces Partnerships With Drug Companies to Create New Addiction Treatments

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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will partner with drug companies to spur research on new treatments for opioid addiction and pain medications that are not addictive, according to The Wall Street Journal . In an article in the New England Journal of Medicine , NIH Director Francis S. Collins and Nora D. Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said the NIH will join with drug companies to launch an initiative in three scientific areas: developing better overdose-reversal and prevention interventions to reduce mortality, saving lives for future treatment and recovery; finding new, innovative medications and technologies to treat opioid addiction; and finding safe, effective, nonaddictive interventions to manage chronic pain. Collins and Volkow called for stronger versions of the opioid overdose antidote naloxone to counteract painkillers such as fentanyl and carfentanil, which are much more potent than heroin.
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Trump’s Budget Cuts Run Counter to His Promises to Battle Addiction

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Family members of young people who have struggled with or died from opioid addiction say President Trump’s budget proposal, which would reduce funding for addiction treatment, runs counter to his promises to help solve the problem, the Associated Press reports. The proposed budget would shrink spending for Medicaid, which covers an estimated three in 10 adults with opioid addiction. The budget is unlikely to be approved as written, the article notes. The Republican health care bill passed by the House would allow states to weaken a requirement that private insurance cover addiction treatment. The Congressional Budget Office estimates a patient’s cost of substance abuse treatment could increase by thousands of dollars a year in states that have chosen to reduce coverage requirements. “Inside I’m screaming,” Sandra Chavez of Sacramento, California, who lost her 24-year-old son, Jeffrey, to a blood infection related to his injection drug use, told the AP. “We’re...
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Patients Treated for Opioid Addiction in General Health System at Higher Risk of Death

Patients Treated for Opioid Addiction in General Health System at Higher Risk of Death
Patients treated for an opioid use disorder in a general healthcare system instead of an addiction treatment center face a higher risk of death, a new study concludes. Researchers at UCLA found patients treated for opioid addiction in primary care offices or hospitals are more than twice as likely to die than those treated in addiction treatment centers, according to HealthDay. “The high rates of death among patients with opioid use disorder in a general health care system reported in this study suggest we need strategies to improve detection and treatment of this disorder in primary care settings,” study lead author Yih-Ing Hser said in a UCLA news release. She noted that as opioid addiction has grown in the United States, people with opioid use disorders are increasingly being treated in primary care provider offices. The findings are published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine .
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