Durbin Applauds New Administration Effort to Address Opiod Epidemic
[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) applauded a new effort by federal, state, local and private sector partners to address the ongoing problem of prescription drug and heroin addiction and abuse. Under the leadership of the Obama Administration, the partnership aims to double the number of health providers enrolled in their State Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, as well as the number of providers certified to prescribe naloxone – a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose – and bupronephrine – a medication assisted therapy for opioid use disorder treatment. More information is available here.
“Naloxone is sometimes called the “Lazarus drug” because of its ability to reverse the deadly effects of a heroin overdose. And yet, law enforcement officers in only a few Illinois counties carry it. Medication-assisted therapies offer proven treatments for opioid disorders. And yet, there are restrictions on the number of patients who can access those therapies,” Durbin said. “With heroin and opioid use on the rise, why wouldn’t we do everything we could to give healthcare providers access to life-saving drugs and therapies? I am glad to see the Administration answering that call by expanding the use of naloxone and medication-assisted therapies, while also providing additional training and resources to the first-responders who are on the frontline of this crisis.”
For the past several months, Durbin has met with local advocates, law enforcement officials, health professionals, and people affected by heroin and opioid addiction throughout Illinois to discuss ways to combat the growing problem.
Since 1999, the number of drug overdose deaths in the United States has more than doubled, and in most states the number now exceeds the number of traffic-related deaths. Drug overdose deaths are now the leading cause of preventable injury death, resulting in nearly 44,000 deaths each year, with most involving either prescription opioids or heroin. In Illinois, there were 1,652 overdose deaths in 2014 – an increase of nearly 29 percent since 2010.
Durbin has supported targeted strategies to address opioid abuse as part of a coordinated national effort. More information on those strategies – and the impact of today’s announcement on their deployment – is detailed below.
Prescription Drug Monitoring
Prescription narcotic drugs are the number one cause of overdoses in the United States. Under today’s announcement, state, local, and private sector partners have committed to double the number of health care providers registered with their State Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs in the next two years.
In March, Durbin introduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the National All-Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting (NASPER) program, which provides grants to states to maintain, improve, and expand their prescription drug monitoring programs. The program was originally signed into law in 2005.
Naloxone is a medication that can reverse the effects of an overdose from opioids, including heroin and prescription painkillers, if it is administered in a timely way. Naloxone has no side effects or potential for abuse, and is widely recognized as an important tool to help prevent drug overdose deaths. However, many communities struggle to get naloxone to those on the front lines who need it most. Durbin has been outspoken in his efforts expand access to naloxone, as well as drug overdose prevention programs that have been proven to save lives.
Under today’s announcement, state, local, and private sector partners have committed to double number of providers that prescribe naloxone – a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose.
In June, Durbin introduced the Overdose Prevention Act, which would expand access to naloxone, as well as drug overdose prevention programs that have been proven to save lives. The Overdose Prevention Act aims to decrease the rate of drug overdose deaths by improving access to naloxone, supporting overdose prevention programs, enhancing surveillance of overdose occurrences, and establishing a coordinated federal plan of action to address the epidemic.
Medication Assisted Therapies
In September, HHS announced that it would be taking steps to revise the regulations that cap the number of patients a physician can treat with medication-assisted therapies, including buprenorphine. Despite studies showing medication-assisted therapies to be highly effective, there is significant under-treatment due to federal limitations. In 2012, of the 2.5 million Americans who abused or were dependent on opioids, fewer than one million received medication-assisted therapy.
Under today’s announcement, state, local, and private sector partners have committed to double the number of physicians certified to prescribe buprenorphine for opioid use disorder treatment, from 30,000 to 60,000 over the next three years.
In May, Durbin cosponsored the Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act (TREAT Act). The bill would not only lift the cap on the number of patients physicians can treat using medication assisted therapies, but it would also enable nurse practitioners and physicians assistants trained in addiction medicine to treat patients with medication assisted therapies.
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