Is $485 million enough to end the opioid epidemic?

April 21, 2017

The HHS is giving out greatly needed funds, but money alone may not be enough.

Many groups and government agencies are praising the $485 million in funds that HHS is giving to states to help combat the opioid crisis.

HHS Secretary Tom Price said that the funds are provided for in the 21st Century Cures Act through the State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grants. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) administers the grants to support prevention, treatment, and recovery services, depending on the needs of in each state.

“This funding holds the promise of saving and restoring thousands of lives throughout our nation,” said SAMHSA acting deputy assistant secretary Kana Enomoto. “These grants will allow communities-particularly those most devastated by the opioid crisis-to provide services that can promote prevention and deliver treatment and recovery to people needing help.”

Related article: Fighting Opioid Abuse

However, more must be done to curb addicts’ access to prescription painkillers, said Robert T. Taketomo, PharmD, in an interview with Drug Topics. Taketomo is President and CEO of pharmacy services administrator Ventegra.

While the HHS grants “represent meaningful support for a crisis that has been developing for over a decade,” other aspects that need to be addressed include availability and access to opioids in the legal market, and the roles played by the various stakeholders in opioid use, said Taketomo.

These stakeholders include prescribers, suppliers (both pharmacies and wholesalers), pharmacy benefit managers, payers, opioid manufacturers, and state and federal regulators, including boards of pharmacy and medicine.

“In addition to the objectives outlined by HHS, tangible programs focused on ensuring appropriate initiation and use of opioids in the general population will also need to be addressed,” Taketomo added.

In a letter to state governors, Price wrote that addressing this public health crisis is among his top three priorities and noted opioids were responsible for 33,000 deaths in 2015.

To combat the opioid crisis, HHS has prioritized five strategies: Strengthening public health surveillance; advancing the practice of pain management; improving access to treatment and recovery services; targeting availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs; and supporting cutting-edge research.

Related article: How You Can Help Prevent Opioid Abuse

“I understand the urgency of this funding; however, I also want to ensure the resources and policies are properly aligned with and remain responsive to this evolving epidemic,” Price said in the letter. “Therefore, while I am releasing the funding for the first year immediately, my intention for the second year is to develop funding allocations and policies that are the most clinically sound, effective, and efficient."

Price is seeking the states’ assistance to “identify best practices, lessons learned, and key strategies that produce measureable results.”