How the Healthcare Industry is Responding to the U.S. Opioid Crisis

How the Healthcare Industry is Responding to the U.S. Opioid Crisis

The U.S. Opioid Crisis is massively impacting this country. The reach of this problem is extending well beyond health policy with greater and greater increases in opioid addiction and abuse related deaths. The issue is widespread and every corner of the nation has been impacted. The healthcare industry is reeling as a barrage of political responses rush to resolve the crisis. We previously covered the impact of the Opioid Crisis, now read on to learn more about how the nation is responding and how it may impact healthcare.

Despite a political landscape that currently has Republicans and Democrats locking horns, addressing the U.S. Opioid Crisis seems to be the issue that is uniting Congress in action. Four committees in the House and the Senate held hearings on numerous bills that were all seeking a means of battling the opioid epidemic with an ultimate goal of passing a large opioids bill by Memorial Day. A top contender for this large-and-in-charge bill was a proposal meant to improve the ability of various organizations in addressing the opioid crisis. Some of the provisions of this bill include:

  • Prioritizing the development of non-addictive painkillers
  • Clarify FDA authority to require packaging options for certain drugs that encourage responsible use
  • Authorize CDC research through grants
  • Allow hospice programs to safely and properly dispose of unnecessary controlled substances to reduce the risk of misuse and distribution

This proposal would gain traction and in October 2018 the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act was signed into law, a joint effort from parties on both sides of the aisle. While senators recognize that the opioid crisis is far from over, under this legislation there is hope for providing help to families and communities impacted by the crisis.

In his address at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in April 2017, Secretary Price detailed the strategy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources in addressing the opioid crisis. In particular, HHS has prioritized these five strategies:

  1. Improving access to treatment and recovery services
  2. Promoting use of overdose-reversing drugs
  3. Strengthening understanding of the epidemic through public health surveillance
  4. Providing support for research on pain and addiction
  5. Advancing better practices for pain management

Aspects of this strategy have already been implemented with $485 million in grants being sent to state governors for use in treatment and prevention facilities.

The U.S. opioid crisis is just as hotly debated at the state level. In Minnesota, a signature but controversial effort to fight back against opioids suggests a “penny-a-pill” fee. This is the latest in a string of legislation. In 2014, Steve’s Law granted immunity to persons who called 911 to help someone who was overdosing on opioids, even if they themselves were users. From this have stemmed numerous other proposals in Minnesota: funneling money into preventative measures, equipping law enforcement with an overdose-reversing drug, and more. The issue arises from the fact that the state hopes to accomplish this via fees placed on every opioid sold by a drug company; an action greatly opposed by Big Pharma.

Other states, like New York, have moved forward with measures that slap a fee on opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Whether or not such measures catch on, pharmaceutical companies are being taken to task for their role in the opioid crisis. Executives with pharmaceutical distributors accused of flooding communities with powerful prescription painkillers were summoned to testify before Congress at a hearing held on May 8, 2018. This marks a watershed moment in the healthcare industry as these companies were questioned on their practice of pushing such a high volume of highly addictive pain pills into several states. The case at hand is especially austere as disclosed data from this hearing committee showed that millions of pills were shipped to small communities in states exhibiting the highest rate of drug overdose deaths.

During that May hearing, one pharmaceutical company admitted that it had distributed  about 151 million doses  of oxycodone and hydrocodone in West Virginia between 2007 and 2012, which is a mere fraction of the totals from other companies that were distributing in the area during that time period. However, four of the five executives testified that their companies did not have a role in fueling a public health crisis, despite a committee report revealing the massive amounts of painkillers sent to the area.

The major takeaway? The efforts of the committee will continue to strive to enact new laws and new programs to combat the crisis and will continue the yearlong investigation.

Massive changes are on the horizon and The Boon Group is just as dedicated to keeping you informed as we are to keeping you competitive and compliant! Follow the Boon Blog for updates on the U.S. Opioid Crisis and other industry news.

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