White House Continues to Tackle Opioid Abuse With $350 Million R&D Initiative




The White House is expanding its war on opioid addiction with a $350 million addiction research and treatment initiative.

The goal of this investment is to reduce opioid-overdose deaths by as much as 40 percent in communities across four states that have been hit hard by the epidemic. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 116 Americans die daily from opioid overdoses. The new initiative will focus on about 60 towns across Kentucky, Ohio, Massachusetts and New York, the Wall Street Journal reported this morning. The funding will be used to support different treatment options for opioid-abusers, including an increase of naloxone and other overdose treatments. Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration voted in favor of a plan that would encourage prescribers to think of adding naloxone when prescribing opioids to certain patients who may be at risk of overdose. In addition to increasing the availability of naloxone, the funds will be used to support enhanced law enforcement measures, as well as substance-abuse counseling resources, the Journal reported.

The National Institute of Health is also focusing its research efforts on the study of basic neuroscience in an effort to produce new drug and behavioral treatment methods. The Journal noted. Part of the White House’s plan includes research grants to the University of Kentucky in Lexington; Boston Medical Center; Columbia University; and Ohio State University, in Columbus, the Journal said.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released an additional $487 million to supplement first-year funding through its State Opioid Response (SOR) grant program. The funds are part of HHS’s Five-Point Opioid Strategy and the Trump administration’s tireless drive to combat the opioid crisis. The additional funding released adds up to $1.4 billion in SOR grants. HHS said the funding will expand access to treatment that works, especially to medication-assisted treatment with appropriate social supports.

Also in March, the White House released its outlined plan to stop opioid abuse and reduce drug supply and demand in the United States. The White House initiative is aimed at addressing various factors fueling the opioid crisis, including over-prescription, illicit drug supplies, and insufficient access to evidence-based treatment, primary prevention and recovery support services. For over-prescribing, the White House plan includes a nation-wide evidence-based campaign to raise public awareness about the dangers of prescription and illicit opioid use, as well as other drug use. The plan also takes aim at encouraging the development of non-opioid pain relief medications.

“We will work to strengthen vulnerable families and communities, and we will help to build and grow a stronger, healthier, and drug-free society,” President Donald Trump said in a statement.

The new funding announced by the government comes in the wake of multiple arrests for the illegal prescribing and distribution of opioids. The indictments include doctors, nurses and pharmacists from across the Appalachia region.

Not only have physicians who allegedly wrote illegal prescriptions of opioids been targeted, so too have some of the companies that manufacture opioid drugs. Last month, embattled Purdue Pharma has agreed to pay $270 million to settle a lawsuit brought against the company over the marketing of its opioid painkiller OxyContin. The lawsuit filed against Purdue points to the company’s aggressive marketing tactics used to gain wide-spread use of its pain killer. The state of Oklahoma had been seeking more than $20 billion in damages from Purdue, as well as other opioid manufacturers, such as Teva Pharmaceutical and Johnson & Johnson. While Purdue has settled this case, there are still numerous others it faces, including one in Massachusetts. The Bay State has attempted to place blame on the company for 670 opioid-related deaths in the state since 2009.

In February, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration drafted new plans that will allow it to address past mistakes regarding the opioid crisis and “get ahead” of the situation that claims the lives of over 100 Americans per day. Gottlieb said the FDA intends to “make sure that we’re acting forcefully enough to address new threats that could extend this crisis.”


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