CDC Releases New Antibiotic Use Data

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has unveiled findings related to new data published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) indicating that approximately one in three antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary. Each year, 154 million prescriptions for antibiotics are written. The unnecessary prescriptions are usually in response to respiratory conditions caused by viruses that do not respond to antibiotics.

Cost of Prescription Painkillers is Decreasing for Patients

According to a new study published in Health Affairs, the cost of prescription painkillers has been gradually shifting from patients to insurers. Out-of-pocket spending on prescription painkillers comprised 53 percent of the total $2.3 billion in spending in 1999. This percentage decreased to just 18 percent by 2012, despite the fact that the total amount of money spent on these drugs tripled to approximately $7.4 billion. The study also shows that Medicare Part D spent double the amount on opioid drugs for its small group beneficiaries under the age of 65 – $1.8 billion – than it has for its entire over-65 population, just $637 million. Medicare and Medicaid are also covering an increasing share of the cost of painkillers. In 1999, the programs covered nine percent of the costs. This figure increased to 35 percent by 2012. Researchers indicate that this cost shift could be partially responsible for the significant increase in the use of the drugs over the last decade. During this time period, deaths from opioid overdoses in the U.S. quadrupled.

House to Consider Opioid Legislation

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives is scheduled to consider under suspension of the rules 12 pieces of legislation related to the prescription drug and heroin abuse epidemic. The House Rules Committee meets on Tuesday to consider H.R. 4641, a bill to provide for the establishment of an inter-agency task force to review, modify, and update best practices for pain management and prescribing pain medication; and H.R. 5046, the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act of 2016. Later in the week, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 5046, subject to a rule, as well as consideration of House Amendment to S. 524, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA) and a Motion to go to Conference on S. 524, and a possible Democrat Motion to Instruct Conferees.

Democrats Call for Opioid Funding; Surgeon General Pushes Prescriber Education

A group of 53 Democratic lawmakers in the House have written to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) calling for $600 million in new funding to fight the opioid abuse epidemic. The lawmakers wish to see the money attached to a package of bills aimed at addressing the opioid crisis that is expected to be voted on by the chamber this week. Also last week, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called for more robust training for prescribers of painkillers as a key part of addressing the epidemic of opioid overdose deaths in this country. He pointed toward prescribing practices and overprescribing as reasons for the supply of misused painkillers in the nation’s medicine cabinets.

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