As 2022 came to an end, Rahul Gupta, MD, MPH, MBA, Director of the Office of Nation Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) announced federal drug policy and strategy updates from a number of federal administrations that primarily addressed President Biden’s strategy to stop the opioid overdose epidemic. These announcements follow the President’s October declaration of his changes to marijuana policy, pardoning those persons federally imprisoned for marijuana possession and encouraging governors to do the same in their state. Read more here.
Here are the drug policy strategy updates:
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
A notice of a proposed rule was issued by the HHS to permanently expand access to treatment for Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) by allowing patients in treatment to receive take home doses. During the Covid pandemic, this access to treatment strategy was implemented to accommodate patients with additional Covid era barriers. Read more here.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH)
NIH just launched a “harm reduction research network” conducted through nine universities across the country aimed at preventing opioid overdose deaths. The research is expected to evaluate harm reduction methods such as naloxone distribution and fentanyl test strips and measure the effectiveness of those actions. The National Institute on Drug Abuse Director, Dr. Nora Volkow, said, “Research to better understand how different harm reduction models may work in communities across the country is… crucial to address the overdose crisis strategically and effectively.” In this program, NIH is not providing funds for the purchase of pipes, syringes or needles. Also, there was no mention of evaluating the potential of access to treatment for the patients involved with the research. Read more here.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The CDC announced provisional data on overdose deaths reaching 107,735 for the 12-month period ending in July 2022. This number of predicted deaths was mostly caused by fentanyl or methamphetamine often in combination with other drugs. Although this number is greater than the previous year, the annual increase appears to be slowing. Read more here.