Life Science Compliance Update

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July 07, 2017

President’s Opioid Commission Held First Meeting

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On June 16, 2017, the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and Opioid Crisis held its first meeting to discuss ways in which to curb the current opioid epidemic through best practices of prevention and treatment. During the meeting, Commission members and panelists discussed the challenges of effectively addressing the opioid crisis through means of both prevention and treatment. The meeting also concentrated on the importance of a collaborated effort between agencies to implement comprehensive solutions. The administration reiterated their commitment to the issue, and stated that the President “cares deeply and personally about this issue.”

Opening Statements

Chairman Chris Christie, the Governor of New Jersey, began the meeting by stating the necessity of addressing this issue and that the administration is committed to finding effective solutions to the opioid crisis. The Chairman outlined the goals of the Commission and welcomed the testimony of the witnesses as a first step in dealing with this issue.

Governor Charlie Baker praised the creation of the Commission and stated that his state (Massachusetts) has been dealing with the opioid crisis since he took office, but the adverse effects of this issue have been persistent. The Governor expressed hope that the Commission would be able to form lasting solutions to this pervasive issue.

Governor Roy Cooper similarly emphasized the importance of the Commission to find consensus on effective solutions to the crisis. The Governor, former Attorney General of North Carolina, stated that “we cannot arrest our way out of this problem.” He expressed a need for treatment and prevention and said that any health care bill must address both treatment and prevention in the Medicaid area to attack this problem. The Governor also urged the Commission to examine the pharmaceutical industry’s role in this crisis, and call on the industry to produce less severely addicting drugs and create more tamper-resistant drugs.

Representative Patrick Kennedy discussed mental health and its connection to the opioid epidemic. Kennedy also emphasized the importance of holding insurance agencies accountable so the public sector does not have to “pick up the tab.” He went on to say that Medicaid is the largest provider of insurance, so any repeal of Medicaid is a repeal of coverage. Kennedy said that this issue is personal to him since he has struggled with opioid addiction in the past, and urged the Commission “not to step back when we need to step forward.”

Dr. Bertha Madras stated that as a neurologist and educator, she understands the severity of the crisis. She expanded by saying that while challenging issue, “it is a human problem with a human solution” and that Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is committed to the issue.

Important Takeaways

Panelists noted that evidence-based practices have already been researched, but government at all levels must implement the most effective solutions. For example, one expert emphasized that evidence backs medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction, and the federal government should permanently authorize physician assistants and nurse practitioners to prescribe buprenorphine to help treat opioid addiction.

Additionally, several panelists said that insurers do not typically obey the federal parity requirement — that mental health and substance use benefits be on par with physical health benefits. Panelists further noted the significant role of Medicaid in paying for addiction and mental health treatments, citing proposed Medicaid cuts in the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

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