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FDA chief bats for medication-assisted treatment to control opioid crisis

FDA chief bats for medication-assisted treatment to control opioid crisis

FDA chief bats for medication-assisted treatment to control opioid crisis

October 31st, 2017 | ASAH Team

It is the primary responsibility of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to safeguard public health and it does so by ensuring the safety, efficacy, quality and security of the nation’s food supply, cosmetics, products that emit radiation, human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and medical devices. Even prescription and non-prescription (over-the-counter) drugs are traditionally fall under the FDA’s regulatory jurisdiction.

The addiction to prescription drugs, especially opioids, is a serious global problem that affects the socioeconomic welfare of all societies. In 2016, approximately 11.8 million people aged 12 or above misused opioids in the past year, including 948,000 users who misused heroin. Additionally, people in the same age range suffering from an opioid use disorder (OUD) was 2.1 million people in 2016, including 153,000 adolescents.

The multipronged consequences of prescription drug abuse are devastating in nature that pose a serious threat to both mental and physical health. Unfortunately, the menace of opioid abuse is on the rise due to the tendency among doctors, dentists and nurse practitioners to liberally prescribe opioid painkillers despite the evidences of addiction and overdosing. In 2015, more than 15,000 people died due to prescription opioid overdose. The number of unintentional overdose deaths due to opioids has more than quadrupled since 1999 in the U.S. leading some physicians and policymakers to declare the problem of opioid abuse as a national crisis.

In such circumstances, the FDA has been playing a key role in handling the entire opioid epidemic in the U.S.. In order to overcome the increased rate of opioid addiction, the FDA has been vigorously promoting the widespread and safe adoption of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) along with other measures.

Key areas explored by FDA against opioid crisis

In May 2017, Scott Gottlieb, the new FDA Commissioner, wrote in a blog post to the FDA staff and the public suggesting a few areas where the FDA could develop additional tools for curbing the epidemic of opioid abuse. In the blog, he recommended using prescription opioids only during treatment and based on the clinical circumstances of patients to avoid prolonged use.

Moreover, Gottlieb established an Opioid Policy Steering Committee, which will comprise some of the agency’s most senior career leaders to explore and develop strategies that the FDA can use against the opioid crisis. Some of the potent areas highlighted by Gottlieb are as follows:

  • Identifying whether there is a need for some form of mandatory education for health care professionals before legally prescribing opioids to patients to ensure correct prescribing and avoid the risk of opioid abuse and addiction.
  • Understanding whether the FDA needs to work more closely with provider groups to develop standards for prescribing opioids to tailor prescription according to each individual to prevent prolonged use and thereby addiction. Most of the times, a few cases would require a full 30-day supply and most would suffice with a two-or three-day course.
  • Determining whether the FDA would need additional policies to adequately prevent drugs with high potential for abuse and misuse from being approved during the drug review process.

According to G. Richard Smith, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, Medicine and Public health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), one more critical step that the agency could adopt to combat the crisis is the promotion of the effective and nonaddictive, non-opioid pain medications.

Addiction is treatable

Amid the growing concerns and new regulations and guidelines, the medical fraternity is advised to adhere to a more holistic approach to treatment. Usually, pain is recognized as a vital symptom to warrant the prescription of painkillers. However, health care professionals can take a welcome step to recommend other alternative measures, such as exercise, yoga or over-the-counter non-opioids.

A comprehensive action plan drawn up by the FDA that would help to reduce the impact of opioid abuse on the American society is available on the agency’s website. Though addiction is a complicated brain disease, it is treatable. However, people in recovery must realize that treatment is an ongoing process that requires determination and conviction to achieve sobriety.

If you or someone you know needs help in recovering from substance abuse, contact the Arizona Substance Abuse Helpline to get details about the best substance abuse treatment centers in Arizona. Call at our 24/7 number 866-857-5777 or chat online to get more information on the professionally managed substance abuse rehab clinic in Arizona.

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