KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

The Next Battlefield On The War Against Opioids: Veterinarians’ Offices

Some states are requiring vets to check the prescription histories of pets' owners, but there are those who say they're not qualified to be in that position. Meanwhile, a psychiatrist found a disturbing pattern of teenage suicide in areas affected by the opioid crisis.

Stateline: War On Opioids Moves To Veterinarians’ Offices
Some states are taking the war on opioids into veterinarians’ offices, aiming to prevent people who are addicted to opioids from using their pets to procure drugs for their own use. Colorado and Maine recently enacted laws that allow or require veterinarians to check the prescription histories of pet owners as well as their pets. And Alaska, Connecticut and Virginia have imposed new limits on the amount of opioids a vet can prescribe. (Mercer, 8/23)

The Washington Post: Mapping Out The Causes Of Suicide In Teenagers And Children
Just before Christmas 2015, child psychiatrist Daniel Nelson noticed an unusual number of suicidal kids in the hospital emergency room. A 14-year-old girl with a parent addicted to opioids tried to choke herself with a seat belt. A 12-year-old transgender child hurt himself after being bullied. And a steady stream of kids arrived from the city’s west side, telling him they knew other kids — at school, in their neighborhoods — who had also tried to die. (Murgia, 8/22)

And in other news on the epidemic —

Stat: How A Doctor Built Demand For Bridge Detox Device, Without Proof It Works
The private Facebook group for the Bridge — a wearable medical device claiming to help opioid users overcome the pain of withdrawal — feels like a recovery meeting. Doctors sing the device’s praises. Patients describe it as a miracle and offer to help spread the gospel. The Food and Drug Administration cleared the device, which sends small electrical pulses through four cranial nerves, for treatment of chronic and acute pain three years ago. Now, doctors from Alaska to Florida are charging $600 to $1,500 or even more to attach it to patients’ ears in a bid to curb the intense nausea, anxiety, and aches of opioid withdrawal. (Blau, 8/23)

Stat: New Drugs, Trackers, A Narcan Mask: Ohio Tech Fund Fights Opioid Abuse
ore than 4,100 people fatally overdosed in Ohio in 2016, even though state officials spent nearly $1 billion to combat the crisis. That prompted Gov. John Kasich this spring to announce that $20 million would be devoted to funding new research related to opioid abuse. ...Ohio’s Third Frontier Commission, an economic development initiative focused on tech startups, recently asked companies to submit funding requests. Over the summer 44 initial proposals flooded into the commission. These proposals have come from all kinds of applicants — doctors and device makers, biotech execs and engineers, scientists and recovery advocates — working on solutions as wide-ranging as the people touched by the opioid crisis. (Blau, 8/23)

The Philadelphia Inquirer/Philly.com: Most Opioid Users Stay On Drugs Even After Overdosing, Pa. Medicaid Study Finds
Perhaps the one good thing about an overdose is that it might scare a drug abuser into going straight. But new research shows that’s usually not the case. The number of people filling painkiller prescriptions in the six months after treatment for an opioid overdose declined about 10 percent, according to a study of Pennsylvania Medicaid records published Tuesday. Meanwhile, rates of medication-assisted treatment, considered the gold standard for opioid addiction, went up 12 percent. (Sapatkin, 8/22)

The Baltimore Sun: Harford Overdose Deaths Soar Past 2016 Total 
Deaths in Harford County this year related to overdoses of heroin and other opioids soared past the total for all of 2016 in the past week, and the problem is expected to get even worse, the county Sheriff's Office reported. With more than four months left in 2017, the Sheriff's Office said there were 299 reported overdoses as of Tuesday, 59 of them fatal. That tally included 11 opioid related overdoses in the previous week, including one fatality. (Anderson, 8/22)

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