KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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A Possible Prescription For The Opioid Epidemic? One Doctor Wonders If Marijuana Holds The Key

Dr. Chinazo Cunningham is conducting a study funded by the National Institutes of Health to figure out the harms associated with marijuana use versus those of opioids. Media outlets report on news about the crisis out of Washington, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts as well.

Stat: Can Marijuana Wean The Nation Off Opioids? This Doctor Wants To Know
Dr. Chinazo Cunningham has treated thousands of chronic pain patients over the past two decades. Many of them have asked for opioids; they sometimes even request a specific kind of prescription painkiller. But the ones who don’t seek out opioids have intrigued the primary care physician. There’s a common refrain among those patients: Marijuana helped. ...But with thousands of fatal opioid overdoses each year, she started to wonder: Does marijuana work well enough to lower the amount of painkillers prescribed? (Blau, 9/29)

The Wall Street Journal: Washington State Joins Legal Challenges Over Opioids
Lawsuits seeking to hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable for widespread opioid addiction are mounting, with Washington state and Louisiana joining more than half a dozen other states that already have filed actions against drugmakers and distributors. Washington state sued Purdue Pharma L.P. on Thursday for allegedly misrepresenting the addiction risk of opioid painkillers including OxyContin. (Randazzo, 9/28)

The Philadelphia Inquirer/Philly.com: In Philly, Finding A Place For The Homeless On Heroin
The Housing First model has been used for years to get chronically homeless people off the street. Many are seriously mentally ill, and quite a few are on drugs. Suburbs in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey have embraced it. But Philadelphia’s experiment is unusual: a team of professionals devoted exclusively to opioid users, set up in advance of the city’s crackdown on the homeless heroin encampment along the Conrail tracks, and expanded since. The concept: First provide housing, not in a shelter but a real apartment or a house. Then surround the newly housed with an intensive array of services — regular medical and psychiatric care, help with benefits, education, even showing them how to shop and do laundry. And treatment to stay off drugs. (Sapatkin, 9/29)

WBUR: A Refuge Or A 'Warehouse'? Boston Opens A Day Center For Drug Users
By some accounts, there are more heroin users clustered near the Mass. Ave. exit off Interstate-93 in Boston than anywhere else in the state. ... But community leaders, business owners, drug users and the city are divided over whether a new engagement center is the right something — whether it will relieve congestion, help people get off the streets, stay safe, and get into recovery. (Bebinger, 9/28)

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