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Senate nears opioids deal as prescriptions fall

Protestors hold signs in front of the Capitol building that read "Stop the Heroin"
Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The Senate's opioids bill is inching closer to coming together, advancing the congressional effort to address the epidemic that is rapidly changing from being a prescription problem to an illegal drug problem.

Driving the news: Opioid prescriptions decreased 16% in the first half of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017, according to a new Food and Drug Administration analysis.

  • That suggests efforts to slow overprescribing have been effective.
  • But as heroin and fentanyl overdoses rise, the epidemic will demand an evolving response. 

By the numbers:

  • In the first half of 2018, 74.1 metric tons of oral morphine equivalents (a way to measure opioids) was dispensed in retail outpatient settings, a 16% drop from the year before. 
  • In 2017, 88.8 metric tons of opioids were dispensed, a 10.4% decrease from 2016. 

Between the lines: The Senate bill will likely address all sides of the epidemic but still primarily be focused on the problems of overprescribing and prescription opioid misuse. 

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said yesterday all Republican issues with the opioids bill had been resolved, but there was a snag among the Democrats.

The other side: Reducing opioid prescriptions isn't always a good thing, and addressing the opioid epidemic has backfired for some patients who need chronic pain treatment, Politico reports

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