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HHS leaders call for expanded use of medications to combat opioid overdose epidemic

A national response to the epidemic of prescription opioid overdose deaths was outlined yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine by leaders of agencies in the U.S.


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National RX Drug Abuse Summit

Abuse of prescription opioids, stimulants, and other psychotherapeutic medications presents unique challenges. On the one hand, these drugs can produce serious harm (even death) when not taken as prescribed; on the other, they are powerful clinical allies that can be life saving.  Thus, the approach we take and the messages we convey to minimize harm need to be nuanced and multipronged.

Knowing When to Say When: Transitioning Patients from Opioid Therapy

Summary

Uses a case study to teach when and how to taper and/or transition patients off opioid-based medications in primary care settings

Resource Materials

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Expanded HIV Screening Projected To Decrease Spread of the Virus

Intensified screening for HIV among injection drug users receiving opioid agonist therapy could prevent more than twice as many new infections as current screening practice. A recent study based on mathematical modeling found that screening every 6 months instead of annually, and adding viral RNA testing to the currently used HIV antibody testing, could improve both effectiveness and cost-effectiveness.

Microneedle Milestone: One Week of Transdermal Drug Delivery

Microneedles are an innovative technique for delivering medications through the skin, a route that could particularly benefit patients receiving naltrexone therapy for opioid and alcohol dependence. Researchers have found a way to use the transdermal technique to deliver a single treatment of naltrexone that lasts for 7 days.

Naloxone—A Potential Lifesaver

Combating the epidemic of opioid abuse—including prescription painkillers and, increasingly, heroin—requires a multi-pronged approach that involves reducing drug diversion, expanding delivery of existing treatments (including medication-assisted treatments), and development of new medications for pain that can augment our existing treatment arsenal. But another crucial component we must not forget is that people who abuse or are addicted to opioids need to be kept alive long enough that they can be treated successfully. In this, the drug naloxone has a large potential role to play.

Another Reminder of the Terrible Toll of Addiction

Philip Seymour HoffmanEverett Collection / Shutterstock.com

This past weekend Americans were shocked and saddened to learn that one of our greatest actors, Philip Seymour Hoffman, had died at age 46 of an apparent heroin overdose. Hoffman’s death, in the prime of his life and career, is a poignant reminder of some of the harsh realities of a disease that 17.7 million Americans struggle with and that all too often cuts their lives short.

Dr. Evan D. Kharasch Joins the Institute of Medicine

Dr. Kharasch is a NIDA-funded researcher known for a broad range of research into how drugs are metabolized in the body.

Medications That Treat Opioid Addiction Do Not Impair Liver Health

A trial of buprenorphine/naloxone (Bup/Nx) showed no evidence that the medicine was associated with liver damage. The drug gave results similar to those of methadone. The study data indicate that although most patients can be treated safely with either methadone or Bup/Nx without major concern for liver injury, clinicians are advised to continue to monitor the liver health of their patients who are on methadone or Bup/Nx therapy.

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