Welcome to this month’s edition of Comp Medical News. It’s all opioids, all the time in your headlines.
New Provider Guidelines to Prevent Overprescribing
The Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC) has released a new tool kit to combat opioid overdose through improved stewardship programs. The resource is designed to help providers review and assess the volume and length of opioid prescriptions and dosages to mitigate the risk for patient overdose and death.
More info from Pain Medicine News here.
Chili-Based Painkiller Shows 6 Months of Relief in Study
A synthetic version of a medicine traditionally extracted from chili plants relieved knee pain among osteoarthritis patients for up to six months, data showed. The medication is produced by Centrexion Therapeutics and brings the company a step closer to developing a safe and effective analgesic, as an alternative to opioids. The drug works by inactivating local pain fibers transmitting signals to the brain.
The mid-stage trial tested two doses of the drug against a placebo in 175 difficult-to-treat knee osteoarthritis patients who had failed or were unable to tolerate prior pain therapy. Data showed the drug induced statistically significant pain relief as well as reduced knee stiffness and improved physical function at 24 weeks after a single injection. Patients on the 1 milligram dose experienced a reduction of 3.8 on a scale measuring daily pain with walking, versus a decline of 2.4 for those on the placebo, according to the company.
Read more via Reuters here.
More than Half of Opioid Prescriptions Go to Patients with Mental Health Disorders
A new study in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found that 51 percent of prescriptions written for opioids were handed to the 16 percent of the population that suffer from mental health problems. Further, of adults who have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders, 18.7 percent use prescription opioids, compared with only 5 percent of people without those diagnoses. The authors defined an “opioid user” as an adult who filled two or more opioid prescriptions within a calendar year. The profile of the patients most affected by the link between mental health diagnosis and opioid use was dominated by middle aged white women receiving opioids for a musculoskeletal problem.
Read more via MedPage Today here.
States Plan to Use Precedent of Tobacco Lawsuits in Opioid Fight
State and local leaders fighting the opioid abuse epidemic are studying tactics used in the tobacco lawsuits of the 1990s to recoup what they believe are losses in public coffers due to pharmaceutical companies’ misleading marketing. According to Bloomberg, more than 20 U.S. states, counties and cities have sued firms including Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma Inc., and McKesson Corp. in the past year, claiming they fueled a public health crisis with misleading marketing and aggressive distribution of opioids. Attorneys general in Alaska and Tennessee are also considering lawsuits as their health and legal budgets are stretched to a breaking point by the surge in addictions, overdoses and crime.
Read more via Insurance Journal here.
Finally, two long-form pieces address the varied efforts to help current opioid addicts:
The Case for Prescription Heroin
A reporter with Vox investigated the only heroin-assisted treatment facility in North America – Providence Crosstown Clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia. The clinic provides prescription heroin and supervised injection for hardcore opioid addicts who have failed every other treatment course. Proponents of the method claim that providing the drug that addicts will often commit crimes to obtain is safe and saves lives.
Read the entire article here.
Police Change Tactics in Cities and Towns Hard Hit by Opioids
A recent New York Times report reveals that police departments across the country, struggling to stem the tide of overdoses and deaths due to opioid abuse, are changing tactics. Claiming to learn from the ineffectiveness of mass arrests during the crack-cocaine epidemic, police forces are helping connect addicts to resources and issuing warnings when heroin laced with potentially lethal cutting agents like fentanyl hits the street.
Read the full article here.