White House Asks for $1.1B to Combat Opioid Abuse


President Barack Obama's fiscal year 2017 budget proposal calls for an additional $1.1 billion to combat the nation's spiraling opioid epidemic.

President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposal calls for an additional $1.1 billion to combat the nation’s spiraling opioid epidemic.

The funding would be applied to evidence-based opioid abuse and heroin use prevention programs, prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), prescription drug-take back events, medication-assisted treatment, and improved access to the overdose reversal agent, naloxone.

Of the $1.1 billion allocation, $920 million would go toward funding cooperative agreements with states to provide additional drug-based treatment for those addicted to painkillers, including OxyContin, Percocet, hydrocodone, and morphine.

Each state’s individual funding would be determined based on both the severity of the opioid abuse epidemic in that state and the strength of its strategy to combat it.

West Virginia, for instance, has seen soaring rates of death related to opioid abuse.

“Opioid abuse and overdoses have hurt families from across this nation,” said US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell during a news conference. “My home state of West Virginia has felt the cost almost more than any other.”

Of the remaining funding, $50 million would be invested in the National Health Services Corps to expand access to substance use treatment providers, and $30 million would be used to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment programs using medication-assisted treatment, as well as identify opportunities for improvement.

In addition to the $1.1 billion, President Obama has asked for $500 million to fund programs under HHS and the US Department of Justice to help bolster overdose prevention efforts, provide more medication-assisted treatment for addicts, and improve access to naloxone.

The President’s budget proposal follows an announcement in October 2015 that outlined some of the federal, state, local, and private sector efforts to reduce prescription drug abuse nationwide.

Those goals include doubling the number of providers who prescribe naloxone and doubling the number of providers registered with their state PDMP in the next 2 years.

Stakeholders ranging from federal officials to drug addicts all have a role to play in combatting the opioid abuse epidemic, but pharmacists in particular can expect to play a critical role in curbing the problem.

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) has pledged to provide training and resources to its 40,000 members, while CVS Health plans to allow its pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription in 20 more states this year.

Efforts to abate the opioid abuse epidemic must strike a balance between preventing addicts from obtaining inappropriate prescriptions and ensuring that legitimate pain patients do not face delays in accessing the medications they need.

“ASHP and its members are focused first and foremost on ensuring appropriate pain management for our patients while balancing the essential need to ensure appropriate safeguards against fraud, misuse, abuse, and diversion of controlled substances,” ASHP CEO Paul W. Abramowitz, PhD, ScD (Hon), FASHP, affirmed.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will also invest $8.5 million in training prescribers on safe opioid prescribing, developing clinical quality improvement measures, and educating the public.

CDC figures show that opioids were involved in 28,648 deaths in the United States in 2014.

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