Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, Voices for Non-Opioid Choices Coalition Urges Continued Work to Combat Opioid Addiction

Echoing the Concerns Raised Friday by Top Trump Administration Officials, the Coalition Stresses the Need for Dual-Focus During the COVID-19 Pandemic

 

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Voices for Non-Opioid Choices (“Voices”) coalition echoed concerns raised recently by top Administration officials that the current novel coronavirus pandemic could derail recent progress to combat the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Unfortunately, in these trying times, we know that many Americans will turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their stress. This is particularly dangerous for the 23 million Americans currently in recovery from substance use disorder. In order to prevent these relapses and new addictions, Voices urged increased vigilance to avoid unnecessary opioids flooding our health care system and communities.

One way that opioids invade our communities is through unused prescriptions, often left over from an injury or surgical procedure. This risk is lower right now, given that Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) advised hospitals and providers to delay non-essential surgeries until the current pandemic has subsided. However, as we begin recovery from this crisis, we expect that there will be a surge of elective procedures performed in a short amount of time. These procedures are often associated with high rates of opioid prescribing – with some estimates showing that patients receive in excess of 80 opioid pills following a procedure. As a result, there could soon be a sudden influx of opioid pills into communities around the country once these procedures are rescheduled.

Voices commends the Administration’s attention to this urgent public health emergency, including its stated goal of reducing the over-prescription of opioids by one-third in just three years. One way to do this is to reduce our over-reliance on opioids to treat patients’ acute pain

symptoms by increasing the availability and utilization of non-opioid pain management approaches.

On top of losing an average of 130 Americans every day to an opioid-related overdose, the opioid epidemic has cost American taxpayers trillions of dollars. The White House Council of Economic Advisors estimates that the United States has spent $2.5 trillion on this crisis just since 2015 – more than the combined cost of caring for Americans with cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.

One such approach championed by the coalition is the Non-Opioids Prevent Addiction in the Nation Act (“NOPAIN Act”). The NOPAIN Act (H.R. 5172/S. 3067) is a bicameral, bipartisan piece of federal legislation designed to increased patient and provider access to the wide array of available, safe, and effective non-opioid pain management options.

“It is our sincere hope that Congress will include the NOPAIN Act in a forthcoming legislative package,” said Chris Fox, Executive Director of the Voices for Non-Opioid Choices coalition. “We are at a pivotal crossroad right now and we cannot afford to take our foot off the gas. We have an opportunity to ensure that the current pandemic does not exacerbate the opioid addiction public health emergency and lead to even more Americans struggling with addiction to prescription opioids.”

 

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