KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Trump Urged To Declare National Emergency Over Opioid Epidemic

“With approximately 142 Americans dying every day,” notes the report from the president's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, “America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks.”

The Associated Press: Trump Drug Commission Calls For Emergency Declaration
President Donald Trump's drug commission has called on him to declare a national emergency to deal with the country's opioid drug epidemic. The commission sent an initial report to the Republican president on Monday saying the approximately 142 deaths each day from drug overdoses mean the death toll is "equal to September 11th every three weeks." (7/31)

USA Today: Commission Urges President Trump To Declare Emergency Over Opioid Crisis
"It would also awaken every American to this simple fact: If this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will," the report reads. "You, Mr. president, are the only person who can bring this type of intensity to the emergency and we believe you have the will to do so and to do so immediately." (Estepa, 7/31)

Stat: White House Panel Urges Trump To Declare Opioids State Of Emergency
The declaration would effectively nationalize a move that has already taken place in numerous states. Governors in Florida, Arizona, and Maryland have previously declared states of emergency, granting those governments access to millions of dollars and, in some cases, regulatory leeway in administering their responses. (Facher, 7/31)

The New York Times: White House Panel Recommends Declaring National Emergency On Opioids
In addition to seeking an emergency declaration, the commission proposed waiving a federal rule that sharply limits the number of Medicaid recipients who can receive residential addiction treatment. It also called for expanding access to medications that help treat opioid addiction, requiring “prescriber education initiatives” and providing model legislation for states to allow a standing order for anyone to receive naloxone, a drug used to reverse opioid overdoses. (Goodnough, 7/31)

The Wall Street Journal: White House Commission On Opioids Seeks Declaration Of Emergency
The report recommends several steps for increasing access to medications such as buprenorphine and methadone that help treat opioid addiction. It advises the Justice Department to increase use of the medications in prisons, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to require that all federally qualified health centers mandate that staff are licensed to prescribe buprenorphine. The report also recommends stronger enforcement of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, a 2008 law that prohibits health-insurance plans from covering mental-health services less generously than other medical services. (Whalen, 7/31)

Los Angeles Times: White House Commission Recommends President Declare A National Emergency Over The Deadly Opioid Epidemic
Between 1999 and 2015, more than 560,000 people in the United States died of drug overdoses, a death toll larger than the population of Atlanta. In 2015, nearly two-thirds of drug overdoses were linked to opioids, including Percocet, OxyContin, heroin and fentanyl. There were more than 50,000 deaths from drug abuse and addiction in 2015, according to figures released by the White House when the commission was created. (Simmons, 7/31)

Stat: Here's Who Is Most Vulnerable To Misuse Prescription Opioids
Nearly 92 million adults in the United States used prescription opioids in 2015 — and while the vast majority of those individuals used the medications according to their prescriptions, some groups are particularly vulnerable to opioid use disorders, a new study finds. The new report, published Monday in Annals of Internal Medicine, analyzed federal health data from more than 72,000 non-institutionalized, civilian adults in the U.S. The authors found that nearly 38 percent of those individuals used opioids in 2015. They then extrapolated their findings to the U.S. population as a whole. (Thielking, 7/31)

Stat: Express Scripts To Further Tighten Patient Access To Prescription Drugs
Express Scripts, the nation’s largest pharmacy benefits manager, will exclude an additional 64 medicines next year from its formulary – the list of drugs that get preferred insurance coverage. The company estimates that restricting access to the drugs will save health plans an extra $700 million. Combined with earlier exclusions, the PBM estimates overall savings will reach $2.5 billion in 2018, which would represent a 39 percent increase over projected savings this year. All in all, the PBM plans to exclude 159 medicines out of more than 3,700 that will be available next year. PBMs, you may recall, are crucial, behind-the-scenes middleman that negotiate drug prices on behalf of health plans, unions, and government agencies. (Silverman, 7/31)

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