House Passes 10 Bills Aimed at Combating Addiction to Opioids

House Passes 10 Bills Aimed at Combating Addiction to Opioids
The U.S. House recently passed 10 bills designed to fight opioid addiction. They are part of a package of 18 bills expected to be approved, USA Today reports. One of the bills would authorize the creation of an interagency task force that would review, modify and update best practices for prescribing opioids. Members of the task force would include representatives of federal agencies, pain advocacy groups and mental and behavioral health providers. Another bill would require states that receive federal grants for child protective services to have laws or programs to ensure babies born to mothers addicted to opioids will be cared for safely when they leave the hospital. Legislators is considering more bills, the article notes. Democrats offered an amendment to provide $600 million in emergency funding for the opioid bills. Republicans blocked the bill, saying funding will come when Congress passes its 2017 spending bills for federal agencies....
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Advisory Panel Calls for Requiring Training for Doctors Who Prescribe Opioids

Advisory Panel Calls for Requiring Training for Doctors Who Prescribe Opioids
A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel recently voted to recommend requiring doctors who prescribe opioids to receive training. Doctors’ groups have resisted mandatory training. The FDA often follows their advisory panels’ recommendations, but the agency is not required to do so. The Wall Street Journal reports the panel heard evidence on ways to improve opioid safety. The panel unanimously voted to recommend overhauling current federal regulations to train physicians and patients about the risks of overusing opioid painkillers. “We need to teach people to use these drugs sparingly,” said committee member Jeanmarie Perrone, a professor of emergency medicine and toxicologist at the University of Pennsylvania. The panel heard extensive public testimony from people who urged making opioid training mandatory for doctors, and cautioned the training should not be controlled by the pharmaceutical industry. Emergency medicine physician Dr. Chris Johnson of Minneapolis told the panel, “Every brain is at...
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Health Experts Ask for Changes to Pain Treatment Guidelines to Reduce Opioid Use

Health Experts Ask for Changes to Pain Treatment Guidelines to Reduce Opioid Use
A group of state health officials, doctors and consumer advocates is asking the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for changes to pain treatment guidelines to reduce the use of opioid painkillers. The group also has asked the body that accredits hospitals and clinics, the Joint Commission, to re-examine the pain management guidelines it requires institutions to follow, The Wall Street Journal reports. In the letter to CMS, the group said current standards for treating pain are too aggressive and contribute to overuse of opioid painkillers. The letter urges CMS to stop asking patients about how well their pain was controlled in the hospital. CMS uses the answers in making judgments about hospital performance and to determine payment. “Medication is not the only way to manage pain and should not be over-emphasized,” the group wrote. “Setting unrealistic expectations for pain relief can lead to dissatisfaction with care even when...
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Study Finds Opioid Painkiller Hydromorphone May Help Treat Heroin Addiction

Study Finds Opioid Painkiller Hydromorphone May Help Treat Heroin Addiction
A new study suggests the opioid painkiller hydromorphone may help treat people with heroin addiction. The study included more than 200 people addicted to heroin who had not responded to treatment with methadone or buprenorphine, HealthDay reports. Participants were randomly chosen to receive injections of either hydromorphone (sold under the brand name Dilaudid) or pharmaceutical-grade prescription heroin, called diacetylmorphine. They received the injections in a clinic, under the supervision of a healthcare professional. At the beginning of the study, participants used heroin almost daily. After six months, patients in both groups reported using street heroin and other opioids three to five days a month. They also reported a large drop in the number of days they committed crimes—from an average of 14 days to less than four. Almost 80 percent of both groups were still in treatment after six months. More than 88,000 injections were given during the study. There...
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FDA Urges Creation of Generic Abuse-Deterrent Opioid Painkillers

FDA Urges Creation of Generic Abuse-Deterrent Opioid Painkillers
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is urging makers of generic drugs to redesign opioid painkillers to make them abuse-deterrent, according to HealthDay . Medications with abuse-deterrent properties are more difficult to crush or dissolve, making them harder to snort or inject. If a medication has abuse-deterrent properties, “it does not mean the product is impossible to abuse or that these properties necessarily prevent addiction, overdose or death – notably, the FDA has not approved an opioid product with properties that are expected to deter abuse if the product is swallowed whole,” the agency said in a statement. “By issuing the draft guidance, the FDA is helping to ensure that generic abuse-deterrent opioids are no less abuse deterrent than their brand-name counterparts,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said. “We hope that the availability of less costly generic products with abuse-deterrent properties has the potential to accelerate the shift away from...
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House Bill Aims to Protect Babies Born to Mothers Who Used Opioids in Pregnancy

House Bill Aims to Protect Babies Born to Mothers Who Used Opioids in Pregnancy
A measure designed to protect babies born to mothers who used opioids during pregnancy was introduced in the U.S. House, Reuters reports. A similar bill moved to the Senate floor recently. The House bill would require federal and state governments to better monitor the health and safety of babies born dependent on opioids. States would be required to report the number of infants identified each year as born drug-dependent, and the number for whom plans of safe care are developed. “We see the damage of substance abuse across all segments of our society, but perhaps the most tragic cases involve newborns who enter the world defenseless against the addictions they were born with,” bill sponsor Representative Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania said in a statement. “It is a sad reality in this country that a baby is born addicted to opioids every 19 minutes. We must do everything we can to...
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Some States Limiting Prescribing of Opioids

Some States Limiting Prescribing of Opioids
Some states are limiting how opioids are prescribed, in an effort to reduce the number of deaths from prescription painkillers, The New York Times reports. These states are frustrated by a lack of action by the federal government. Last week legislators in Massachusetts passed a measure that would limit opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply after surgery or an injury. The Massachusetts Medical Society supported the seven-day limit on opioid prescriptions. “Usually we are opposed to carving anything in stone that has to do with medical practice,” said Dr. Dennis Dimitri, President of the Massachusetts Medical Society. “But we are willing to go forward with this limitation because we recognize this is a unique public health crisis.” Vermont and Maine lawmakers are considering similar measures. Governors are scheduled to meet this summer to develop a plan to reduce the use of opioids painkillers, the article notes. “If we could adopt...
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Study Urges Caution in Giving Some Patients Opioids Before Knee Surgery

Study Urges Caution in Giving Some Patients Opioids Before Knee Surgery
A new study suggests that in some patients undergoing a total knee replacement, taking opioid painkillers before the operation may increase the risk of being on opioids much longer afterwards. The drugs may also increase the risk of complications after surgery, Medscape reports. Total knee replacement, or total knee arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure in which parts of the knee joint are replaced with artificial parts. “Narcotic use can be dangerous. We need to understand how much to give and why we’re giving it,” lead researcher Robert Westermann, MD of the Department of Orthopedics at the University of Iowa said at the recent American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 2016 Annual Meeting. He added that initiatives that encourage orthopedic surgeons to decrease the use of opioids are needed. In his study, Dr. Westermann identified 112,569 patients who underwent total knee replacement from 2007 to 2014. Of these, 44 percent had no...
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New Head of FDA Pledges to Support Development of Abuse-Deterrent Opioids

New Head of FDA Pledges to Support Development of Abuse-Deterrent Opioids
The new head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Dr. Robert Califf, told a panel of advisers this week that the agency will support the development of abuse-deterrent opioids, the Associated Press reports. Califf told the FDA advisers he will do “everything possible under our authority to prevent abuse, save lives and treat dependence.” He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate last week, after some senators said the FDA has not done enough to fight the opioid epidemic. “What we can do is work with prescribers, professional associations, patient advocates and state and local partners — essentially the entire country — to encourage safe use and disposal of opioid medications,” Califf said recently. He had previously stated the FDA will add stronger warning labels to the most commonly prescribed opioids. He also pledged to consult more with outside advisers. Califf said while abuse-deterrent opioids may not be 100 percent...
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Too Few Addiction Counselors Available to Fight Opioid Epidemic

Too Few Addiction Counselors Available to Fight Opioid Epidemic
More addiction counselors are leaving the field at a time when demand for their services is increasing, NPR reports. Addiction treatment professionals say the reason people are leaving include burnout and low pay. Addiction counselors earn an average of $40,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As the toll of drug overdose deaths increases, communities are trying to increase the number of treatment beds, the article notes. The shortage of addiction counselors is hampering that effort. The Affordable Care Act and other federal laws have allowed millions more Americans to obtain health insurance that will help pay for addiction treatment. Amelie Gooding, who runs Phoenix House in Keene, New Hampshire, told NPR she has been short a full-time counselor for a year and half. “Everybody thinks, ‘Oh, there aren’t enough beds!'” she said. “But there’s not enough treatment staff to open more beds.” Because she does not...
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