KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Many Desperate To Find Alternative To Opioids, But Pain Is A Pain To Research

As the opioid crisis rages on, there's a rush to figure out ways to treat pain that doesn't involve traditional painkillers. But that's pretty hard. In other news, addiction experts are disappointed by the lack of forward movement from the president.

The Associated Press: Overcoming Opioids: The Quest For Less Addictive Drugs
Tummy tucks really hurt. Doctors carve from hip to hip, slicing off skin, tightening muscles, tugging at innards. Patients often need strong painkillers for days or even weeks, but Mary Hernandez went home on just over-the-counter ibuprofen. The reason may be the yellowish goo smeared on her 18-inch wound as she lay on the operating table. The Houston woman was helping test a novel medicine aimed at avoiding opioids, potent pain relievers fueling an epidemic of overuse and addiction. (Marchione, 4/17)

Boston Globe: More Study? Addiction Experts Disappointed With Trump’s Lack Of Action On Opioid Crisis 
Drug addiction experts battling soaring overdose rates worry President Trump has not lived up to repeated campaign pledges to curb opioid abuse, favoring a tough-on-crime approach rather than the treatment programs he promised. While the White House heralds a new opioid addiction study commission, advocates said they wanted action — not further study. The epidemic, largely triggered by legal prescription drugs, is already clearly defined, they say, and remains by most accounts out of control. (Herndon, 4/16)

Outlets report on news about the epidemic out of the states as well —

The Associated Press: West Virginia Law Authorizes Opioid Antidotes At Schools
Schools in West Virginia will be able to give drugs to students who overdose on opioids without having to first contact parents under a new law approved this week. The measure passed unanimously by the state Legislature and signed Tuesday by Gov. Jim Justice comes as West Virginia recorded 844 overdose deaths last year, more than 700 involving at least one opioid such as heroin, fentanyl or prescription painkillers. (4/14)

The Baltimore Sun: Drug-Related Deaths Overburden Maryland Medical Examiner's Office 
The opioid epidemic that has claimed so many lives in Maryland is overwhelming the state medical examiner's office. The agency has exceeded national caseload standards — the number of autopsies a single pathologist should perform in a year — in each of the past four years. The office now risks losing its accreditation. The office can continue to operate without accreditation. But the association warns that performing too many autopsies can jeopardize quality and undermine confidence in the results. The situation has troubling implications for the criminal justice and public health systems. Prosecutors rely on autopsy findings and medical examiners' testimony to bolster their cases, and public health officials use data from the agency to direct resources. (Cohn, 4/15)

The Star Tribune: In Battle Against Opioids, Minnesota Leaders Promote Wider Use Of Naloxone 
Minnesota has placed pharmacies at the front line of the opioid epidemic, with laws allowing them to distribute naloxone, the overdose antidote drug, without a prescription and efforts to make them collection points for unused prescription opioids to prevent their misuse. Now state health and pharmacy leaders want to make sure that pharmacies take up the cause — and that people use these convenient locations to obtain the “rescue drug” for themselves or for friends or loved ones abusing opioids. (Olson, 4/14)

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