The opioid epidemic continues to destroy America.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently reported that more than 62,000 Americans died of an unintentional drug overdose in 2016, a record high in recorded history.
Additionally, 27,000 American deaths resulted from an overdose of opioids in 2016, an increase of about five percent from the year before.
In her time as Health and Human Services Secretary, Secretary Alex Azar has shown great leadership in confronting the opioid crisis.
Already, Azar has unveiled a prevention initiative that will improve data collection in several states to help prevent and detect opioid-related death.
In addition, the secretary is proactively seeking to protect vulnerable Americans by promoting expanded access to lifesaving medication, as we allow laws to take effect in states that allow pharmacists to dispense naloxone to anyone with an opioid overdose.
The secretary also has helped address the national shortage of Narcan, naloxone, a lifesaving medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
Through Administrator Robert Redfield’s safe prescribing and harm reduction efforts, thousands of Americans have taken advantage of a new, FDA-approved dosage of naloxone, and thousands more are on the verge of receiving it. The most recent data reveals that the number of prescriptions increased by 46 percent.
In a similar way, the HHS has taken steps to promote health care access for those in recovery by using veterans facilities as a pilot program to test the use of medication-assisted treatment for patients who use opioid analgesics.
The opioid epidemic also brings with it profound moral issues. From the opioid crisis and the criminal justice reform efforts of President Trump, to the creation of the opioid commission under the guidance of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to the passage of the first comprehensive bill to combat this epidemic, Congress has responded to public concern and support in a momentous way.
The strong coalition of support for President Trump and the opioid commission demonstrate that Americans share a strong desire to reduce the opioid crisis and continue to support a thoughtful and comprehensive response that focuses on three key priorities: prevention, treatment, and recovery.
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As the opioid crisis continues, we must work to reduce the consequences of abuse and overdose while protecting and restoring the dignity of every person.
Government has a responsibility to protect vulnerable Americans and to prevent access to opioids by those at high risk. Through our actions, we can work to save lives.
Bradley R. Smith is the general counsel at Liberty Central, a member of Liberty Industries’ family of companies in the pharmaceutical and medical device fields.