CDC Gives States $20 Million to Fight Painkiller Abuse and Overdose

Late last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the launch of a new $20 million program to help states end the ongoing prescription drug overdose epidemic. Called “Prescription Drug Overdose: Prevention for States,” the program is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Opioid Initiative.

The CDC selected 16 states to receive funding:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin

“The prescription drug overdose epidemic requires a multifaceted approach, and states are key partners in our efforts on the front lines to prevent overdose deaths,” said Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell in a press release on the new initiative. “With this funding, states can improve their ability to track the problem, work with insurers to help providers make informed prescribing decisions and take action to combat this epidemic.”

“Participating states will execute and evaluate prevention strategies to improve safe prescribing practices and prevent prescription drug overuse, misuse, abuse and overdose,” says Debra Houry, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s Injury Center, in an interview with “Awarded states will collaborate with key partners to maximize efforts and address issues that impact prescribing and drug overdoses.”

Some of the ways the states will use the money include:

  • Maximizing prescription drug monitoring programs. Funding will move more states closer to universal use of PDMPs for all opioid prescriptions and will make the programs easier to access and use and their data more up-to-date. Improvements to PDMPs will make it easier to identify and stop areas with inappropriate prescribing patterns, too. With more accurate data from these statewide programs the CDC can also better understand what’s causing and worsening the prescription drug overdose epidemic.
  • Improving community or insurer/health system interventions. The new funding will give communities and counties that are especially hard-hit by the opioid epidemic more technical assistance and help with opioid-prescribing intervention for both insurance companies and health systems, which include hospitals, medical centers and clinics. The CDC money will also encourage the use of evidence-based opioid prescribing guidelines.
  • Establishing interventions that prevent prescription drug overdoses.
  • Implementing a rapid-response project that would encourage innovative approaches to the prevention of misuse and abuse of opioids and overdose, as well as respond quickly to new crises.

The proposed 2016 budget, which awaiting Congressional approval, includes a request for funding to expand drug abuse prevention programs to all 50 states.

The Size of the Opioid Problem

According to the CDC, since 1999, overdose deaths involving prescription opioids have quadrupled in the U.S and more than 16,000 people have died from prescription opioid overdoses in 2013, the latest year for which there is data. Heroin deaths have also been on the rise; more than 8,000 heroin overdose deaths occurred in 2013, a nearly three-fold increase since 2010. And CDC surveys also show that while the level of opioids prescribed and sold in the U.S. has quadrupled since 1999, there has not been a change in the amount of pain reported by Americans.

“The prescription drug overdose epidemic is tragic and costly, but can be reversed,” said CDC director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, speaking in a press release.  “Because we can protect people from becoming addicted to opioids, we must take fast action now, with real-time tracking programs, safer prescribing practices and rapid response. Reversing this epidemic will require programs in all 50 states.”

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