The hepatitis C virus is responsible for more deaths in the United States than any other infectious disease. Hepatitis C infections have been rising at an alarming rate since 2010.
According to a new RAND study, the reformulation of the pain medicine OxyContin in 2010 led to a large rise in hepatitis C infections. As policymakers consider additional approaches to curb opioid abuse, they should be mindful that any strategy may have unintended consequences—and be prepared to respond.
In 2017, there were more than 47,000 opioid-involved overdose deaths, and one in eight adults now report having had a family member or close friend die from opioids. Increasing the availability and reducing the costs of approved medications for those with an opioid use disorder (OUD) is imperative; however, jurisdictions addressing OUD and overdose deaths may wish to consider additional interventions.
In this study, researchers assessed the evidence on, and arguments made about, heroin-assisted treatment (HAT) and supervised drug consumption sites and examined some of the issues associated with implementing them in the United States. Given the increased mortality associated with fentanyl and HAT’s successful implementation abroad, the researchers recommend conducting HAT trials in some U.S. jurisdictions that already provide a spectrum of social services and have good accessibility to medication-assisted treatments. The authors explain that HAT is not a silver bullet or first-line treatment option, but there is some evidence that suggests it can help stabilize the lives of some people who use heroin and who have not had success with first-line treatments.
Neonatal abstinence syndrome has increased over the last two decades, but limited data exist on its association with economic conditions or clinician supply. Researchers from RAND and the Vanderbilt Child Health Policy Center studied more than 6.3 million births in a diverse group of eight states. The study found that counties plagued by the highest rates of long-term unemployment had significantly higher rates of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, with the effects most pronounced in rural counties. Counties with shortages of mental health providers also had higher levels of neonatal abstinence syndrome as compared to other counties. Researchers stated that as Congress considers legislation, particularly those related to building infrastructure in rural communities, it should consider that these investments may also benefit the health of the communities.
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