New HHS plan on opioids ups naloxone use

March 26, 2015

Health and Human Services (HHS) recently launched a widespread initiative – including increasing the use of naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses – aimed at reducing prescription opioid and heroin related overdose, death and dependence.

Health and Human Services (HHS) recently launched a widespread initiative – including increasing the use of naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses – aimed at reducing prescription opioid- and heroin-related overdose, death and dependence.

President Obama’s FY 2016 budget includes investments to intensify efforts to reduce opioid misuse and abuse, including $133 million in new funding to address the issue. To that end, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also launched the Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention for States program earlier this month to provide state health departments with resources to enhance their PDMPs and advance innovative prevention efforts.

HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell’s new initiative focuses on 3 priority areas that tackle the opioid crisis:

  • Providing training and educational resources, including updated prescriber guidelines, to assist health professionals in making informed prescribing decisions and address the over-prescribing of opioids.

  • Increasing use of naloxone, as well as continuing to support the development and distribution of the life-saving drug, to help reduce the number of deaths associated with prescription opioid and heroin overdose.

  • Expanding the use of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), a comprehensive way to address the needs of individuals that combines the use of medication with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders.

“Opioid drug abuse is a devastating epidemic facing our nation. I have seen firsthand, in my home state of West Virginia, a state struggling with this very real crisis, the impact of opioid addiction. That’s why I’m taking a targeted approach to tackling this issue focused on prevention, treatment and intervention,” Burwell said.

Related:Once-daily opioid formulated with abuse-deterrent properties now available

Prescription drugs, especially opioid analgesics such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, morphine, and methadone, have increasingly been implicated in drug overdose deaths over the last decade. Deaths related to heroin have also sharply increased since 2010, with a 39% increase between 2012 and 2013.

Among drug overdose deaths in 2013, approximately 37% involved prescription opioids.

Related: Higher opioid doses linked to increase in depression: Study

To help increase the use of naloxone, HHS will support the development, review and approval of new naloxone products and delivery options. The agency will also promote state use of Substance Abuse Block Grant funds to purchase naloxone and implement the Prescription Drug Overdose grant program for states to purchase naloxone and train first responders on its use.

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