Co-prescribing naloxone in Medicare Part D increases

The practice of co-prescribing the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone to Medicare Part D patients who take opioids for chronic pain increased between 2016 and 2017, though such co-prescriptions were provided to only a small minority of patients who might benefit, according to research led by scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, all within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The study found that overall national rates for naloxone co-prescription along with any opioid among Medicare Part D patients increased from 1.5 per 1000 patients receiving opioid prescriptions in 2016 to 4.6 per 1000 in 2017.

In 2016, CDC released a guideline advising clinicians to consider co-prescribing naloxone to patients at increased overdose risk, such as those taking higher doses of opioids or those who also have prescriptions for benzodiazepines to treat anxiety. Consistent with these recommendations, the highest rates of co-prescribing were among patients receiving opioids at doses of more than 90 morphine milligram equivalents per day and benzodiazepines for more than 300 days. In addition, two states that mandated naloxone co-prescribing (Vermont and Virginia) have the highest rates of all U.S. states for co-prescribing.

Full story at National Institute of Drug Abuse

HHS Will Revise Regulations on Prescribing Buprenorphine for Opioid Addiction

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will remove some obstacles that limit the ability of doctors to prescribe buprenorphine for patients who are addicted to heroin or prescription painkillers, The Huffington Post reports.

Under current regulations, doctors who are certified to prescribe buprenorphine (sold as Suboxone) are allowed to write prescriptions for up to 30 patients initially. After one year, they can request authorization to prescribe up to a maximum of 100 patients. The HHS will develop revisions to the regulations “to provide a balance between expanding the supply of this important treatment, encouraging the use of evidence-based [medication-assisted treatment], and minimizing the risk of drug diversion,” the department said in a press release.

In areas hard hit by opioid addiction, doctors’ buprenorphine treatment slots can fill up quickly, the article notes. One recent study found buprenorphine treatment is unavailable in U.S. counties where more than 30 million people live.

Full story of prescibing Bupreonorphine for opioid addiction at drugfree.org

Commentary: Treating Opiate Addiction

Drug overdose has now surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of injury deaths in the United States. Every day in the United States, 44 people die as a result of prescription opioid overdose. When this many lives are affected by addiction and substance abuse, it’s clear we must take action to improve treatment options and prevent drug overdose.

To address this problem in Ohio and across the United States, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced plans to launch a targeted initiative aimed at reducing prescription opioid and heroin related overdose, death, and dependence. Specifically, HHS will provide federal support for the development and distribution of naloxone, a medicine which helps reverse overdoses. Last December, I wrote to HHS urging them to make this investment to prevent deaths from prescription drug overdose. This announcement is a great step toward tackling overdose – but we must do more to address this public health challenge.

Full story of treating opiate addiction at drugfree.org