Life Science Compliance Update

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August 15, 2017

President Trump Declares Opioid Crisis a National Emergency

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Working off of the recent recommendations in the interim report issued by the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, President Donald Trump has issued a directive to his administration to use all “appropriate emergency and other authorities to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic.”

Some of the immediate actions the Trump administration could take to address the opioid crisis include: (1) approve state waivers to remove the Medicaid Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion, which prohibits the use of federal Medicaid funds for care provided to most patients in mental health and substance use disorder residential treatment facilities larger than 16 beds; (2) negotiate lower prices for naloxone (the drug that reverses opioid overdoses) as suggested by the Commission; and (3) distributing some of the $45 million in the Public Health Emergency Fund. Earlier this week, President Trump suggested the administration would combat the epidemic by focusing on law enforcement and security on the southern border to stop illegal drugs from entering the country.

The emergency declaration may allow the government to deploy the U.S. Public Health Service, a uniformed service of physicians and other staffers that can target places with little medical care or drug treatment, said Andrew Kolodny, co-director of opioid policy research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. He said the DEA might be able to use the emergency to require prescriber education for doctors and others who dispense opioids.

This comes after several states (Arizona, Florida, Maryland and Virginia) have already declared emergencies. And in recent months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, Congress, physician groups and the insurance industry have taken institutional steps to address the crisis. At the street level, police, firefighters and paramedics now routinely carry naloxone.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, M.D. issued the following statement on President Donald Trump’s instruction to his Administration to use all appropriate authority to respond to the nation’s opioid emergency:

President Trump is taking strong, decisive action in directing the Administration to use all appropriate emergency and other authorities to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic. Today’s announcement demonstrates our sense of urgency to fight the scourge of addiction that is affecting all corners of this country.

Traveling the country, we have seen firsthand the devastation this crisis is inflicting on individuals, families, and communities. President Trump’s announcement further punctuates his clear commitment to combating this epidemic and I thank him for his leadership.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions also released a statement,

I applaud President Trump for his leadership in taking this drastic and necessary measure to confront an opioid crisis that is devastating communities around the country and ripping families apart. The death toll of this horrific epidemic reached 60,000 people in 2016, but as horrible as it is to think of that number, it is worse when we look past the staggering statistic and see our children, our moms and dads, sisters and brothers, friends and co-workers. This nation has never seen overdose deaths anywhere close to these numbers, and for each death, many more suffer debilitating addictions.

Just last week the Department of Justice announced its new Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit and we continue to follow the President’s lead and use every tool we have to combat this deadly crisis.

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