Routinely Prescribing Naloxone Might Prevent Some Opioid-Related Deaths: Study

Routinely prescribing naloxone to certain patients who take opioid medications might reduce the number of overdose deaths, a new study suggests.

The study followed almost 2,000 people who were prescribed opioid painkillers for long-term pain at San Francisco clinics, HealthDay reports. About 38 percent were also prescribed the opioid overdose antidote naloxone. Patients were more likely to receive a prescription for naloxone if they were on a higher dose of opioids, or had experienced an opioid-related emergency room visit.

Patients who received a naloxone prescription had 47 percent fewer opioid-related emergency department visits per month in the six months after receiving the prescription, and 63 percent fewer visits after one year, compared with patients who did not receive naloxone.

Full story of naxolone and preventing opioid related deaths at drugfree.org

Switching From Opioids to Other Pain Treatments Can be Challenging, Experts Say

As the Obama Administration and public health officials push for a reduction in prescription opioids, they are facing some resistance from both patients and doctors, experts tell The New York Times.

Insurance coverage for alternative treatments is inconsistent, the article notes. The plans may not cover all treatments, or they may impose strict limits on coverage. Alternative pain treatments include acupuncture, yoga, chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation, massage, meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Medicaid does cover physical therapy for patients who gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act, but the level of coverage varies by state.

Matt Salo, Executive Director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, says benefits for alternative treatments are often the first to be eliminated when budgets are cut, because they are considered optional. A complicating factor is the widely varying amounts of evidence about the effectiveness of these treatments.

Full story of moving on from opioids to other pain treatments at drugfree.org

Vast Drug-Distribution Network Originating in China Feeds Fentanyl to U.S.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has found that a vast drug-distribution network that originates in China is feeding the deadly opioid fentanyl to the United States, Mexico and Canada.

The network trades not only in finished fentanyl, but related products that are subject to little or no regulation in China or elsewhere, The Wall Street Journal reports. Some of these products are known as analogs, which are copies of fentanyl. Others include the chemical ingredients of fentanyl, as well as pill presses used to make the drug.

Fentanyl is an opioid legally prescribed for cancer treatment. It can be made illicitly, and is 25 to 50 times more potent than heroin.

Full story of China feeding U.S. with fentanyl at drugfree.org

Some Dental Schools Training Students to Reduce Opioid Painkiller Prescriptions

Some dental schools are training their students to reduce the amount of opioid painkillers they prescribe for their surgical patients. Dentists are among the leading prescribers of opioids, especially for surgical tooth extractions, NBC News reports.

The University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine is training students to give their surgical patients detailed explanations of the best way to take opioids and dispose of them. They give patients a two-week prescription that is not refillable.

“I think we find today that prescribing needs to include both education as well as dispensing,” said Dr. Paul Moore, professor of pharmacology and anesthesiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine. “We teach all of our students here if you’re going to write a prescription for an opioid it is important to follow our checklist that includes the kinds of information that you need to provide that patient.”

American Medical Association Calls for Ban on Powdered Alcohol

The American Medical Association (AMA) is calling for a ban on powdered alcohol to protect young people, Medscape reports. The group notes alcohol is the most widely used substance of abuse among young people, leading to 4,300 underage deaths annually.

Powdered alcohol is not yet available in the United States, the article notes. The product, to be sold under the brand name Palcohol, could be snuck into school by teens, the AMA warned.

The AMA House of Delegates voted at the group’s annual meeting last week to support federal and state laws that prohibit the manufacture, importation, distribution, and sale of powdered alcohol.

Full story of AMA calling for ban on powdered alcohol at drugfree.org