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CDC asks for nearly quadruple its budget for opioid addiction overdose prevention
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked for a big budget increase to help change the way America’s doctors write prescriptions for narcotic painkillers, to help states provide better patient care and address drug-related violence, among other goals.
Prescription medications are dangerous, says CDC director Thomas Frieden, MD, and particularly opioids. “You only have to take a few doses to become addicted, potentially for life.” And yet, Frieden says, the harms of opioid medications are still not recognized by patients – or by providers.
“This is a problem that was fundamentally created by bad prescribing practices, and it can be ameliorated greatly by improving those practices and providing additional services to patients and to physicians,” Frieden said.
The CDC director is asking the House Committee on Appropriations for nearly quadruple its annual budget allocation for the “Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention for States Program.”An increase of $54 million for fiscal year 2016 – from $20 million to $74 million – would be used to expand the prescription drug overdose (PDO) program to all 50 states and Washington, DC.
For fiscal year 2015, the CDC asked for a $15.6 million increase to expand the program to several more states. But for 2016, the agency wants to take the program nationwide.
The CDC’s addiction overdose program is aimed at accomplishing three general goals that are seen as major contributors to addiction and overdose:
- Improving data quality and surveillance to monitor and respond to the epidemic .
- Strengthening state efforts by scaling up effective public health interventions.
- Supplying health care providers with the data, tools, and guidance needed to improve the safety of their patients.
The need to address the issues surrounding prescription drug overdose are clear, the CDC says:
- More than 60 people die every day in the United States from overdosing on prescription drugs – over 21,000 a year, eclipsing the American deaths from traffic accidents, natural disasters, disease epidemics and even war.
- PDO death rates now outnumber deaths from all illicit drugs—including heroin and cocaine—combined.
- PDO death rates quadrupled in just ten years (1999-2010), claiming more than 16,600 lives in 2010.
- In 2013, prescription opioid deaths remained essentially level with 2012, maintaining the slight decline seen the previous year but not declining any further.
- Prescription opioid abuse resulted in more than 400,000 emergency department visits in 2011, and cost health insurers an estimated $72 billion annually in medical costs.
One of the details of the program is to maximize the effectiveness of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) and zero in on at-risk communities, the CDC said. PDMPs have fast become a valuable tool in reducing “doctor shopping” for the diversion of addictive drugs to illicit personal abuse as well as drug dealing.
Recent state and county crackdown on Florida’s notorious “pill mills” has seen a significant drop in such activities. The Sunshine State had spent over a decade as the worst state in the nation for the diversion of illicit prescription drugs.
In addition to prescription drugs, the CDC does acknowledge the known problems with illicit street drugs, especially heroin. “Much more remains to be done to address opioid-related [prescription] overdose deaths and also the troubling rise in overdose deaths from illicit drugs such as heroin,” the CDC said.
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