HHS Announces New Action to Combat Opioid Epidemic

On Wednesday, U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced several new actions the department is taking to combat the nation’s opioid epidemic.

The actions include expanding access to buprenorphine, a medication to treat opioid use disorder, a proposal to eliminate any potential financial incentive for doctors to prescribe opioids based on patient experience survey questions, and a requirement for Indian Health Service prescribers and pharmacists to check state Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) databases before prescribing or dispensing opioids for pain. In addition, the Department is launching more than a dozen new scientific studies on opioid misuse and pain treatment and soliciting feedback to improve and expand prescriber education and training programs.

“The opioid epidemic is one of the most pressing public health issues in the United States. More Americans now die from drug overdoses than car crashes, and these overdoses have hit families from every walk of life and across our entire nation,” said Secretary Burwell. “At HHS, we are helping to lead the nationwide effort to address the opioid epidemic by taking a targeted approach focused on prevention, treatment and intervention. These actions build on this approach. However, if we truly want to turn the tide on this epidemic, Congress should approve the President’s $1.1 billion budget request for this work.”

The actions announced build on the HHS Opioid Initiative, which was launched in March 2015 and is focused on three key priorities: 1) improving opioid prescribing practices; 2) expanding access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder; and 3) increasing the use of naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses. They also build on the National Pain Strategy, the federal government’s first coordinated plan to reduce the burden of chronic pain in the U.S.

For more information on other actions HHS has taken to address the opioid epidemic, download the department’s new Opioid Epidemic fact sheet.

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