Stories

Everyone is trying to end the opioid epidemic

Data: Avalere; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

The supply of prescription opioids is falling in almost every state, but Congress and the private sector still have a lot more to do to stem the tide of a still-growing epidemic.

Between the lines: States with laws limiting opioid prescriptions have seen the steepest declines in supply, suggesting that intervention can work. That's good news for both Congress and a coalition of health industry players responding to the crisis.

Only 10% of people suffering from a substance use disorder get specialty treatment. Some don't have insurance and thus can't afford it, but treatment can be inaccessible even for people with coverage.

  • “Right now, there’s not even availability of many qualified caregivers in many parts of the country for opioid abuse treatment," said Mark McClellan, who held senior positions at the Department of Health and Human Services in the Bush administration and worked to develop a new industry roadmap.
  • Providers in turn complain that insurers create barriers to treatment access, including through "prior authorization" requirements.

The House is finishing up a two-week sprint of passing opioid-related bills, some of which could have a substantial impact.

  • This week's biggest bills are one that lifts the "IMD exclusion" for those with opioid use disorder, which will help Medicaid enrollees gain access to treatment, and one that allows substance use disorder to be included on a patient's medical records.

Yes, but: While Congress approved nearly $4 billion for the opioid crisis in the spending bill this year, there's still a huge need for more treatment funding.

  • “It seems there is a real financing gap," McClellan said.

Go deeper:

More stories loading.