KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

Prosecutors To Be Deployed To Cities Ravaged By Opioid Epidemic To Crack Down On Fraud, Scams

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the prosecutors will try to root out pill mills and track down doctors and other health care providers who illegally prescribe or distribute narcotics such as fentanyl and other powerful painkillers. Meanwhile, a review of studies shows that most patients have leftover painkillers after a surgery, which may be contributing to the abuse and misuse of the drugs.

The Associated Press: Sessions: US Prosecutors Will Help Addiction-Ravaged Cities
The Justice Department will dispatch 12 federal prosecutors to cities ravaged by addiction who will focus exclusively on investigating health care fraud and opioid scams that are fueling the nation's drug abuse epidemic, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Wednesday. He unveiled the pilot program during a speech in hard-hit Ohio, where eight people a day die of accidental overdoses. (Welsh-Huggins, 8/2)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Seeks To Harness Health Data To Fight Opioid Crisis
The Justice Department said Wednesday it is forming a unit that will use health-care fraud data to combat the illicit distribution of prescription opioids. The new unit, in the department’s criminal division, will mine data in an effort to ferret out medical professionals who are contributing to what Attorney General Jeff Sessions described as a prescription opioid epidemic in a speech Wednesday. (Wilber, 8/2)

Stat: Where Have All The Opioids Gone? Most Prescribed Pills Go Unused After Surgery
If you have a surgery, you are likely to wind up with more opioid painkillers than you need. And a new paper suggests this excess supply might contribute to abuse and misuse of these addictive drugs. A review of six published studies in which patients reported they were prescribed opioids after surgery found most of them used none or only some of the pills, sometimes due to side effects. Significantly, more than 90 percent of the patients failed to dispose of their leftover medicines in recommended ways, according to the review published in JAMA Surgery. (Silverman, 8/2)

Los Angeles Times: After Surgery, More Than Two-Thirds Of Patients Wind Up With Leftover Prescription Opioids, Study Finds
America’s opioid crisis is fueled by prescription painkillers. Medications such as oxycodone, fentanyl and morphine were responsible for nearly half of the 33,000 overdose deaths recorded in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How did Americans get their hands on so many opioid pills? A new study suggests that surgical patients have plenty go to around. (Kaplan, 8/2)

And in other news on the crisis —

Stat: A Novel Approach To Opioid Addiction: Access To Treatment For All Inmates
s the country reckons with an unfolding opioid crisis, and officials from both parties talk about improving access to care, jails and prisons remain treatment deserts. Few facilities provide any addiction treatment, and when prisoners are released, they return to the same environments — and the same triggers — that fostered their addiction in the first place. Here, at its campus of squat brick buildings, the Rhode Island Department of Corrections is trying something different. Over the past year, it has expanded its so-called medication-assisted treatment program, becoming the first state system to offer such a broad range of therapies — including all three drugs approved to treat addiction — to its entire prison population. (Joseph, 8/3)

NPR: Pharmaceutical Company Behind Vivitrol Markets Addiction Treatment To Judges
Philip Kirby says he first used heroin during a stint in a halfway house a few years ago, when he was 21 years old. He quickly formed a habit."You can't really dabble in it," he says. Late last year, Kirby was driving with drugs and a syringe in his car when he got pulled over. He went to jail for a few months on a separate charge before entering a drug court program in Hamilton County, Ind., north of Indianapolis. But before Kirby started, he says the court pressured him to get a shot of a drug called Vivitrol. (Harper, 8/3)

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