In an effort to save lives and continue turning the tide of prescription drug abuse across the country, U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05) encourages health care providers to prescribe painkillers that are more difficult to abuse. On Friday, Rogers and 16 of his colleagues sent a letter to Secretary Sylvia Burwell urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to better-inform prescribers about the availability of abuse-deterrent versions of the same painkillers they are prescribing.
“As you know, abuse of prescription opioids continues to take a devastating toll on individuals, families and communities across the nation,” the letter stated. “Unfortunately, the medical community has been slow to widely embrace the use of those products intended to deter and mitigate abuse.”
“We need to get these drugs into the hands of patients, so that folks won’t be tempted to crush or snort or inject these dangerous drugs,” said Rogers, co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse. “It’s really a matter of life and death.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every day in the United States, 44 people die as a result of prescription opioid overdose. Deaths from overdose of prescription opioid painkillers have tripled since 2001, killing more than 16, 000 in the U.S. in 2013.
Currently, Medicare Part D plans place greater restrictions on patient access to painkillers that are more difficult to abuse, which could deter research and innovation in the field of abuse-deterrent opioids (ADOs).
The letter clarified, “While it is important to note that no ADO can entirely eliminate the risk of abuse, ADOs are an important part of the comprehensive strategy to reduce prescription opioid-related abuse, misuse and overdose. Continued innovation in this field will be critical to our success in bringing this epidemic to a close.”
The letter requests Secretary Burwell to review current labeling of abuse-deterrent painkillers to ensure that physicians have the guidance they need to prescribe them and to improve patient access.