The Hill reports (here) that there are close to 50 Bills pending before Congress that are expecting action by the end of the week, to help address the opioid epidemic. It is the hope that a comprehensive package will be put together and ultimately be passed into law.
Providing a legislative foundation to the cause is a good start, but how does that get people into treatment leading towards recovery? How does one legislate behavior? This is a difficult question to answer and one that ultimately needs to be addressed. Cutting down on the number of dosage units dispensed per prescription, and hoping to shore up the borders from the influx of illegal drugs entering the country is a step in the right direction, but the ability to address such a complex, multifaceted problem has never been one of Congress’ strong suits.
While many of these questions are being addressed, there needs to be an overarching theme to protect the patient. In my opinion, there needs to be a clear focus on patients with intractable pain and their ability to access the medications they need at an affordable price. As for those persons addicted to opioids, there needs to be a clear path to treatment and rehabilitation.
The opioid crisis is recognized in every community. It has touched so many lives that almost everyone knows someone that has either died, overdosed, or has become addicted to drugs. The article in The Hill speaks to a budget Bill earlier this year, that provided “$6 billion dollars to tackle the opioid epidemic and mental health reform.” Since the U.S. has not made much progress on the problem since the failed “war on drugs”, we should know by now that just throwing money at the problem will not work. There needs to be a constant re-evaluation of all the efforts now, being put in place with the ability and agility to keep what is working and tweak or eliminate what is not.
Where do generics stand in the fight? Well, to-date there has not been one abuse-deterrent generic formulation approved by FDA. Although I am not certain that abuse-deterrent formulations are the most effective way to combat the opioid crisis, I guess every little bit helps, unless it pushes abusers to more powerful, deadly street drugs like heroin or fentanyl. I wish I had an answer or even a suggestion that might make a difference. The problem is so big and overwhelming that it must be tackled from every angle. Let’s hope there are people smart enough to make a difference, and that the death rates from overdose begin to decline. This is truly a battle for life.