Capitol Hill Briefing Focuses on Opioid Addiction Crisis, Innovative Solutions

A panel sponsored by the Healthcare Leadership Council discusses "Stop Addiction Before It Starts: Innovative Efforts to Prevent Opioid Abuse" Wednesday, April 13, 2016 in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington. Photo by Lisa Nipp for HLC
Daniel Luce of Walgreens presents at briefing.

In an April 13 briefing on opioid addiction hosted by the Healthcare Leadership Council, experts from a leading pharmacy chain, health insurer and health information technology company laid out a number of current and future steps that can stem what has become a growing problem in our society.

HLC President Mary R. Grealy pointed out that the opioid addiction issue is a complex problem requiring multi-faceted solutions.  She said that overdose-related deaths are sharply increasing, but that one in every three Americans suffers some degree of chronic pain and needs access to relief.  “We must confront the problem of addiction, but without making life even more difficult for people already facing severe health challenges,” she said.

Seth Joseph, vice president of corporate strategy for Surescripts, called opioid addiction a “four alarm fire” and explained how e-prescribing for controlled substances significantly reduces the opportunity for drug abuse.

Dr. Andrea Willis, senior vice president and chief medical officer, for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee told the audience that healthcare costs attributed to drug abuse are in the billions, and the use of data analytics can be helpful in understanding prescribing patterns.

And Daniel Luce, national director of pharmacy affairs for Walgreens, discussed the need for states to eliminate barriers to safe drug disposal, and stressed the need for patients to have access to naloxone, which blocks opioid effects, without a prescription.

On the public sector side, U.S. Representatives Annie Kuster (D-NH) and Frank Guinta (R-NH), co-chairs of the Bipartisan Congressional Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic, vividly described the growing plight of opioid addiction in their state and encouraged support for legislation to strengthen treatment availability.  Dr. Andy Gettinger, chief medical officer and executive director of the Office of Clinical Quality and Safety within the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, said the medical community needs greater education on alternative methods for treating pain.  He also noted that real-time health data is necessary to block those seeking to gain illegitimate access to drugs.

Briefing materials are available here.