KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

Test Strips Allow People Using Opioids To Test Their Supply For Fentanyl

The synthetic drug is extremely powerful and is contributing to the high number of overdoses across the country. These kits could help people determine if what they are about to take is stronger than they thought it was. Meanwhile, IBM and MAP Health Management are teaming up to create software to help identify and treat addiction.

NPR: Heroin Test Kits For Purity Are Aimed At Preventing Overdose
In the day room at St. Ann's Corner of Harm Reduction, which runs a needle exchange program in the Bronx, a group of guys are playing dominoes and listening to salsa music while they wait for lunch. And Van Asher, one of the staffers in charge of "transactions" — that means he gives out needles — is talking up his latest idea for how to keep the users here safe. He wants to tell them what's really in their stash. "If you're doing dope," he says to one client, "we'll give you a test strip so you can test and see if there's fentanyl." (Harris, 5/16)

Modern Healthcare: IBM Watson Health, MAP Health Management Join Forces On Addiction Treatment 
IBM Watson Health and MAP Health Management, a population health software maker, have teamed up to create new software that uses cognitive computing to treat long-term addiction and substance abuse. The new version of the MAP Recovery Network platform is driven by IBM's Watson technology, which adds cognitive computing and machine learning to the population health software, allowing it to process unstructured data and to learn as it goes, thereby becoming more and more accurate. (Arndt, 5/16)

And in other news on the opioid epidemic —

Stat: After An Officer's Accidental Overdose, A Police Chief Calls For Stronger Laws
After one of his officers accidentally overdosed during a search and seizure, the police chief of the opioid-besieged town of East Liverpool, Ohio, is calling for stronger penalties for transporting fentanyl and related drugs, and his officers are no longer field testing what they find while on duty. “It’s just too dangerous,” East Liverpool Police Chief John Lane told STAT on Tuesday. “It’s not worth the risk.” It’s been eight months since the town’s opioid crisis made national news, and Lane said very little has changed. Patrolman Chris Green collapsed on Friday after brushing a small amount of white powder from his shirt hours after a field test. (Ross, 5/16)

NPR: HHS Secretary Contradicted Scientific Evidence On Opioid Treatment
Addiction experts are up in arms over remarks by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in which he referred to medication-assisted treatment for addiction as "substituting one opioid for another." Nearly 700 researchers and practitioners sent a letter Monday communicating their criticisms to Price and urging him to "set the record straight." (Harper, 5/16)

Roll Call: Senators Push Back On Trump Drug Abuse Actions
As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump pledged to tackle prescription drug abuse and the flow of illegal drugs into the country. But his White House efforts are off to a rocky start so far. ... while Republican members continue to hold out hope Trump will keep his pledge to combat the opioid epidemic, a number of GOP senators are becoming more vocal in their criticism of his early actions on the issue. “I am alarmed at the defunding [of ONDCP] because that, to me, signals less emphasis on what I think is a deep problem,” West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said. “I think we need an overarching policy and I would like to see it remain in the White House where it would get the ultimate attention.” (Williams, 5/16)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.