KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Drug Overdoses Causing Mortality Rates Not Seen Since AIDS Epidemic

In 2014, the overdose death rate for whites ages 25 to 34 was five times its level in 1999, and the rate for 35- to 44-year-old whites tripled during that period. Meanwhile, the research backs using medications to treat drug addiction, but clinics are not offering them to their patients; health insurers are taking steps to help battle the growing epidemic; and doctors look to treatments other than opioids to deal with chronic pain.

The New York Times: Drug Overdoses Propel Rise In Mortality Rates Of Young Whites
Drug overdoses are driving up the death rate of young white adults in the United States to levels not seen since the end of the AIDS epidemic more than two decades ago — a turn of fortune that stands in sharp contrast to falling death rates for young blacks, a New York Times analysis of death certificates has found. The rising death rates for those young white adults, ages 25 to 34, make them the first generation since the Vietnam War years of the mid-1960s to experience higher death rates in early adulthood than the generation that preceded it. (Kolata and Cohen, 11/16)

Stateline: Treating Addicts: The Tension Between Drug Treatment And Abstinence
Physicians and brain researchers say that drugs such as buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone are the most effective anti-addiction weapons available. Nevertheless, more than two-thirds of U.S. clinics and treatment centers do not offer the medicines. Many refuse to admit people who are taking them. The result is that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Americans are dying unnecessarily, victims of an epidemic that killed more than 28,000 people in 2014 — more than homicides and almost as many as highway fatalities. (Vestal, 1/18)

The Herald-Dispatch: Non-Drug Options For Chronic Pain Are Growing
A whopping 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, and to manage that pain long-term, 5 million to 8 million use prescription opioids. According to the Centers for Disease Control Policy, West Virginia is among the states that prescribe the most painkiller prescriptions, 138 per 100 people. But it was not always that way. A generation ago, doctors were wary about the use of opioids to manage common pain problems. That began to change in the 1990s as drugs such as OxyContin — touted to be less addictive — were introduced. Painkillers first used only for extreme cases, such as cancer patients near the end of life, became commonly prescribed for many types of chronic pain. (Stuck, 1/17)

Meanwhile, investors see an untapped market in the addiction treatment field —

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Why Addiction Is Suddenly A Hot Investment Sector In Philly
When King of Prussia developer Brian O'Neill convinced a New York private equity firm to back his fledgling Recovery Centers of America, he capitalized on one key trend: The long stigmatized field of addiction treatment has become one of health care's hottest investment sectors. Federal changes boosting access to care for alcoholics and drug addicts as well as people with mental illness, and growing attention to deaths from prescription painkillers and heroin, are luring investors to buy into addiction treatment. (Brubaker, 1/15)

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