Herald-Whig View

Strategy unveiled in fight against opioids

Posted: Aug. 20, 2018 2:45 pm

PHARMACEUTICAL manufacturers in the United States will be required to reduce production of certain medicines next year to slow the deadly opioid epidemic that has claimed 250,000 lives over the past 17 years.

The Trump administration unveiled its most recent strategy for addressing the crisis on Thursday. The Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration would enforce a 10 percent reduction in manufacturing of six opioid drugs during 2019, including oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl.

These and other drugs have contributed to the opioid epidemic that claimed 72,000 lives last year, representing about two-thirds of all overdoses in the United States.

"Cutting opioid production quotas by an average of 10 percent next year will help us continue that progress and make it harder to divert these drugs for abuse," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a release.

We applaud this effort, but recognize the crisis will not be fixed so easily.

The DEA made a change in October 2014, making it more difficult for doctors to prescribe name brand opioids such as Vicodin and Lortab. Prescriptions decreased almost immediately. However, illicit sales of prescription opioids rose.

The Department of Justice announced in January the creation of a unit tasked with taking down dark web opioid and cocaine dealers. The first round of arrests was made in April.

Reducing the flow of both prescription and illegal drugs is necessary but will not eliminate the problem. There must be additional battle fronts in this war on drugs.

Physicians who have the option of prescribing non-addictive pain relievers can help lower the number of people who might fall prey to opioid dependence.

Some treatment programs are in place, but more are needed.

Cultural changes also are needed. There's a stigma for people who become addicted and that can be a barrier when people should seek help in kicking the habit.

It's good to see government officials taking action to stop the deaths. It's also a hopeful sign when the emphasis is on solutions, rather than punishment.