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President Donald Trump’s plan to combat the U.S. opioid crisis is getting mixed reviews.
Nearly 64,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The president’s proposed federal budget requested $3 billion in new funding in 2018 and $10 billion in 2019 for the Department of Health and Human Services to combat the opioid epidemic by expanding access to prevention, treatment and recovery support services and addressing mental health concerns, according to a White House statement.
President Trump unveiled his plan to combat the crisis Monday, which focused on three areas: demand, supply and treatment.
Under the category of preventing drug use initiation and reducing demand, the $13 billion in HHS funding includes resources to support state efforts to prevent opioid abuse and overdose, including improving state-based prescription drug monitoring programs. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration updated its “blueprint” for health care provider continuing education, expanding information on the principles of pain management, including how to assess, treat and monitor patients when opioids are appropriate while the Department of Justice continues to expand its educational efforts to doctors and pharmacists as these professionals obtain registrations for prescribing medication, according to a White House statement.
The plan aims to boost enforcement efforts, with the Department of Justice creating the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, a new program that uses data to help combat the opioid crisis, and the Drug Enforcement Administration initiating a surge to focus on pharmacies and prescribers who are dispensing unusual or disproportionate amounts of drugs, according to the White House. The president is also calling for stiffer penalties, including the death penalty, for drug traffickers.
The plan also aims to expand access to evidence-based care and treatment, including the distribution of $485 million under a newly created grant program to support state-level prevention, treatment and recovery services, according to the White House.
The Washington, D.C-based National Association of County and City Health Officials, which represents nearly 3,000 local health departments, praised the effort to expand access to evidence-based treatment and increase the availability of opioid overdose reversing drugs, including Naloxone, to first responders. The organization also supports investing in health care information technology to connect prescription drug monitoring programs with electronic health records and advancing better practices for pain management.
The association “supports a public health approach as the most effective way to address the opioid epidemic afflicting so many of our communities,” Laura Hanen, the association’s interim executive director and chief of government affairs, said in a statement Monday. “An infusion of resources at the local level is essential to mounting a full-fledged response.”
But Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, said during a conference call Monday that “we’ve been deeply concerned about the failure of this administration to provide any kind of a meaningful response to a crisis that is now claiming tens of thousands of lives a year, and his cynical misuse of the overdose crisis as an excuse to justify extremely harsh and ineffective penalties and policies like large-scale deportations of immigrants on the grounds that supposedly people are involved in drug trafficking.”
“This is a cynical ploy by the administration to rile up Trump’s base, to look tough, to use failed policies in an effort to look tough and it’s not going to make any difference,” she added. “Meanwhile, Americans are going to keep dying and people are going to keep suffering.”
(Reuters) — OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma L.P. said on Saturday that it has cut its sales force in half and will stop promoting opioids to physicians, following widespread criticism of the ways that drugmakers market addictive painkillers.