Trump declares opioid crisis a public health emergency

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Trump declares opioid crisis
Henk Albert de Klerk / Wikimedia Commons

“The United States is by far the largest consumer of these drugs, using more opioid pills per person than any other country … in the world,” said US President Donald Trump. He has declared the increase in opioid addiction over the last 15 years a “national shame”, and has triggered a public health emergency to combat the opioid crisis.

Trump has signed a presidential memorandum declaring a nation-wide public health emergency, and has ordered all federal agencies to take measures to reduce opioid deaths. The declaration allows grant money to be redirected to tackle the opioid crisis.

At the White House on Thursday, the President said, “More people are dying from drug overdoses today than from gun homicides and motor vehicles combined.”

The order will allow funds to be released from the Public Health Emergency Fund, but the BBC reports that there is just US$57,000 (£43,000) in the fund. Individual states will also have more freedom to spend federal funds on health measures for opioid addiction.

In a statement issued yesterday, the commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Scott Gottlieb, said, “We thank President Trump for his leadership in further empowering public and private parties around the country to … more forcefully address this complex public health emergency.”

“We are committed to taking additional steps under the new declaration … to confront this immense national tragedy.”

The FDA plans to take steps to prevent new addictions, treat those with current addictions, and lower the number of opioid-related deaths.

Between 2009 and 2015, intensive care units (ICUs) in the USA saw a 34% increase in opioid-related overdose admissions, and the average cost of care per ICU overdose admission rose by 58%, from US$58,500 (£45,600) to US$92,400 (£,70,500). There was also a doubling of opioid deaths in ICUs over that time.

In spine, research has focused on alternatives to opioid use after fusion surgeries, including methadone, other classes of analgesics, and spinal cord stimulation.

In a talk at the North American Spine Society (NASS) annual meeting this week in Orlando, Florida, USA, Micheal Raad presented the results of a study showing that patients using narcotics daily preoperatively had longer stays in ICU and in hospital in general, and were 6.6 times more likely to still be using narcotics daily at 6 weeks after their surgery.

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