HHS announces new actions to combat opioid epidemic

HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell on Wednesday announced several new actions the department is taking to combat the nation's opioid epidemic.

HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell on Wednesday announced several new actions the department is taking to combat the nation's opioid epidemic. The actions include expanding access to buprenorphine, a proposal to eliminate any potential financial incentive for doctors to prescribe opioids based on patient experience survey questions, and a requirement for Indian Health Service prescribers and pharmacists to check state Prescription Drug Monitoring Program databases before prescribing or dispensing opioids for pain. In addition, the department is launching more than a dozen new scientific studies on opioid misuse and pain treatment and soliciting feedback to improve and expand prescriber education and training programs. The actions build on the HHS Opioid Initiative, which was launched in March 2015 and is focused on three key priorities: improving opioid prescribing practices; expanding access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder; and increasing the use of naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses. They also build on the National Pain Strategy, the federal government's first coordinated plan to reduce the burden of chronic pain in the United States.