Sep 24, 2019

How to make methadone more available

Methadose tablets, the concentrated form of methadone. Photo: Whitney Hayward/Portland Portland Press Herald/Getty Images

As the opioid epidemic rages on, methadone — 1 of 3 approved medications to treat opioid use disorder — can be hard to come by, according to a new article in Health Affairs.

Why it matters: Although it's effective, it's heavily regulated and can only be obtained at opioid treatment programs. These are subject to strict federal, state and even local rules. But many communities don't have enough treatment programs to meet the demand for them.

Details: Methadone could be made more available in primary care settings, which would increase treatment capacity, the paper argues.

  • The Drug Enforcement Administration could also regulate mobile methadone vans, which have been used in several states to reach patients who can't travel to a treatment program.
  • States could encourage the use of "medication units," which are associated with a treatment program but provide off-site medication at places more convenient for patients.
  • States could also loosen restrictions on the number of treatment programs or the services they offer.

Go deeper: The first big opioids verdict is both big and small

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The opioid epidemic will cost the U.S. as much as $214 billion in 2019

Hypodermic needles on the ground in the South Bronx on March 13, 2019. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The opioid epidemic cost the U.S. economy at least $631 billion from 2015 to 2018, and it'll cost another $172–$214 billion this year, according to a new analysis by the Society of Actuaries.

Why it matters: There's a serious financial incentive to address the opioid crisis, as well as a moral one.

Go deeperArrowOct 16, 2019

Major drug companies reach $260 million settlement in federal opioid trial

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Drug distributors McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., AmerisourceBergen Corp. and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, an Israeli-based manufacturer of generic drugs, reached a $260 million settlement on Monday to avoid the first federal opioid trial that was set to begin in Cleveland, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: People familiar with the discussions told the New York Times that a broader settlement to resolve thousands of cases brought by local governments and states could be announced later in the day.

Go deeperArrowOct 21, 2019

Opioid crisis drives spike in Hepatitis C among pregnant women

Hepatitis C virus. Photo: BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The rate of pregnant women with Hepatitis C was 5 times higher in 2015 than in 2000 due to the substantial level of opioid abuse in the U.S., according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released Thursday.

The big picture: 68% of pregnant women with Hepatitis C have opioid use disorder. Overall cases of the virus almost tripled in the past few years, an effect of the opioid crisis and the unsanitary use of needles by drug users, CDC previously reported.

Go deeperArrowOct 3, 2019