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

Two Former Drug Salesmen Arrested for Allegedly Paying Doctors to Prescribe Fentanyl

Two former drug salesmen were arrested last week for allegedly paying physicians to prescribe fentanyl, USA Today reports. Fentanyl has received heavy scrutiny after it was announced Prince died from an accidental overdose of the drug.

Fentanyl, a powerful opioid, can be up to 100 times more potent than morphine, the article notes.

The salesmen worked for Insys Therapeutics, which makes Subsys, a fast-acting form of fentanyl that is sprayed under the tongue. Subsys provides pain relief in as little as five minutes. In contrast, fentanyl patches provide a slow, continuous dose of painkiller.

According to the complaint, the salesmen paid two New York-area doctors $259,000 in kickbacks in 2014. Court documents say the doctors wrote more than $6 million worth of prescriptions for Subsys that year—more than all but a few physicians in the country. The complaint states that a manager for the company allegedly knew about the scheme, and told sales staff to demand that doctors prescribe large quantities of fentanyl in exchange for the payments.

Full story of drug salesman arrested prescribing Fentanyl at drugfree.org

Georgia Puts One-Year Moratorium on Issuing Licenses to Opioid Treatment Clinics

Georgia has put a one-year moratorium on issuing licenses to clinics that use medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction, NPR reports. Legislators say Georgia put a cap on the number of clinics because it wants to determine why so many opioid treatment programs have opened in the state.

“If you go to the parking lot of any of these clinics in northwest Georgia, you’ll see as many Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, Kentucky tags as you do Georgia tags,” said state Senator Jeff Mullis, who sponsored the moratorium legislation. He adds that people are driving in from all over the south to get treatment there.

The law also requires the establishment of a committee to look into the question of why there are so many clinics. Georgia has 67 opioid treatment programs, compared with 12 in Tennessee, 24 in Alabama and one in Mississippi. Florida, with a population nearly double that of Georgia, has 65 clinics.

Full story of moratorium on opioid treatment clinics at drugfree.org

Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs Linked to 30% Drop in Opioid Prescribing

States that use prescription drug monitoring programs have seen a 30 percent decrease in the rate of prescriptions written for opioid painkillers, a new study finds.

“This reduction was seen immediately following the launch of the program and was maintained in the second and third years afterward,” the researchers wrote in the journalHealth Affairs.

NBC News reports the researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York are not certain why the programs reduce opioid prescriptions. “It is possible that the implementation of a prescription drug monitoring program by itself substantially raised awareness among prescribers about controlled substance misuse and abuse and made them more cautious when prescribing pain medications with a great potential for abuse and dependency,” they wrote.

Full story on prescription drug monitoring programs at drugfree.org

Medical, Addiction Groups Partner to Advocate for Laws to Address Opioid Epidemic

Medical and addiction groups have formed a coalition to advocate for legislation and policies to address the nation’s opioid epidemic, MedPageToday reports.

The Coalition to Stop Opioid Overdose (CSOO) includes many national medical groups such as the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, the American College of Emergency Physicians and the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology. It also includes recovery groups including Facing Addiction, the Association of Recovery Schools and Young People in Recovery.

The coalition’s mission is “to address the U.S. opioid epidemic by engaging policy makers, public health leaders, chronic pain and addiction specialists, individuals in and seeking recovery and family members, so that legislation and policies get the support needed to pass Congress this year and become law.”

Full story of the CSOO to stop the opioid epidemic at drugfree.org