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#SubOversight Continues Work to Combat Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse

Apr 23, 2015
As Hearing Series Continues, Health Professionals and Academics Weigh In On The Growing Threat

WASHINGTON, DC – The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), today held a hearing to discuss the growing problem of prescription drug and opioid abuse from professional and academic perspectives. Members heard from a number of experts about treatment options currently available and best practices for those suffering from addiction and abuse as part of the committee’s ongoing effort to confront this problem.

"Let me state clearly so as to leave no room for doubt: Our current strategies are failing and I am not going to stop until we start moving in the direction of success defined not just as getting individuals off of street drugs and onto a government-approved opioid, but getting them to the point of drug free living and to also identify appropriate treatment options for those with underlying mental illness," Murphy said. "Today we have assembled some of the leading opioid addiction experts to get your thoughts about how to reverse this epidemic."

Witnesses discussed the best options for treatment and prevention, including medical-assisted treatment, reducing the over-prescription of opioids, prescription drug monitoring programs, drug courts and the importance of federal, state, and local laws focused on overdose prevention.

"There is plenty of room for improvement in all forms of substance abuse treatment," said Dr. Robert DuPont. "Having a measurable goal will help all treatments achieve their full potential as important parts of the nation’s response to the current, devastating opioid epidemic."

"The risk of death because of untreated opioid addiction is very high, approximately 1 in a 100 of individuals addicted to opioids dies every year as a result of this illness. This risk is greatly reduced in patients that are treated with medications," Dr. Adam Bisaga explained. "Unlike many other disorders with high mortality rates, opioid use disorder is treatable, and a joint effort of health professionals, community advocates, and policy makers is urgently needed to reverse this tragic trend."

Dr. Laurence Westreich added, "Let me reiterate my main point, and what I know you have heard from others: Opioid-addicted people need access to a broad range of treatments for addiction. This must include medication-assisted treatment and treatment for co-occurring psychiatric disorders."

"We don’t just have an opioid misuse epidemic, or an opioid overdose epidemic, we also have an opioid over-prescribing epidemic," Dr. Anna Lembke said. "Congress can push back against the opioid epidemic by requiring revision of health care quality measures to reduce over-prescribing, incentivizing use of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs), and scrutinizing accreditation organizations and regulatory agencies. All three approaches will save lives and improve the practice of medicine at the same time."

Dr. Marvin Seppala shared some of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s successful techniques with the subcommittee: "Based on our early positive results, we plan to continue paving the way for others to use both scientific and spiritual solutions to engage more people in treatment, save lives and ultimately help more people get into long-term recovery."

"One of the most promising interventions has been new laws focused on overdose prevention, increased access to naloxone, Good Samaritan protections, and treatment of opioid use disorders," Dr. Patrice Harris said. "The AMA has worked hand-in-hand with many state medical societies to help enact these laws throughout the nation, and our goal is for every state in the land to support this life-saving approach."

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