A coalition that includes providers and pharmaceutical companies is pushing Congress to build on recent efforts to address the opioid drug misuse and abuse epidemic that led to more than 28,000 overdose deaths in 2014.
The Coalition to Stop Opioid Overdose, a group that includes professional medical organizations and addiction medicine and recovery stakeholders, kicked off its inaugural meeting Thursday in Washington, D.C., with a call to action.
Last week, the House of Representatives passed 18 bills related to opioid abuse, which included grants to train first responders on the use of the overdose-reversal medication naloxone. The Senate passed its own version in March.
Many advocates were disappointed those bills were inadequately funded.
The House bill authorizes $103 million annually over the next five years, much less than the $600 million proposed by the Senate and about one-tenth of the $1.1 billion the Obama administration proposed as part of his fiscal 2017 budget in February.
“Our goal is to make sure that we are very persistently offering help but also pushing where there needs to be pushing so that we can maintain the momentum moving forward,” said Dr. Corey Waller, chair of the American Society of Addiction Medicine's Legislative Advocacy Committee. “We can't wait two years or four years for regulation to get written so that we can start implementing.”
The fact that the coalition includes Merck, Adapta Pharma and Indivior is a sign, Waller said, that all stakeholders need to be involved to end opioid addiction.
“I think having them at the table really does show they are willing to put in the time and the effort to make sure that we can build a better system and have these treatments available for patients,” Waller said.
The coalition will focus on five strategies to combat the opioid epidemic; providing greater access to medication-assisted treatment, expanding the availability of naloxone, improving the ability of prescription drug monitoring programs to track dispensing and prescribing, and increasing prescriber education on opioids.