CDC ads to show alarm­ing side of opi­oid use

Cam­paign tar­gets hard-hit states

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

Ann Marie Per­rotto fin­gers the heart-shaped locket hang­ing around her neck with a photo of her son, Christopher, then re­counts how she had to buy the suit and tie she buried him in.

Fac­ing the tele­vi­sion cam­era, she says her son died of an opi­oid over­dose at age 22 af­ter get­ting hooked just five days into his pre­scrip­tion.

Her story is one of the poignant 30-sec­ond public ser­vice an­nounce­ments the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion pre­viewed Wed­nes­day as part of a new scared-straight-style cam­paign warn­ing against the dan­gers of opi­oid abuse.

Af­ter years of play­ing catch-up and watch­ing the death toll mount, public health pro­fes­sion­als said it’s time to try to get ahead of the opi­oid epi­demic with the same type of ap­proach that has helped make ma­jor dents in cig­a­rette use.

“I lost ev­ery­thing. I had to leave school and stop play­ing sports in col­lege, and I started to watch my life slip away,” says Mike, a re­cov­er­ing painkiller ad­dict, in one of the ads. “I want peo­ple to know that these drugs are ad­dic­tive — make

sure this is some­thing that’s ac­tu­ally nec­es­sary, be­cause a lot of the times it isn’t. One pre­scrip­tion can be all it takes to lose ev­ery­thing.”

The CDC this week rolled out a se­ries of ads at a na­tional sum­mit in At­lanta on pre­scrip­tion drug and heroin abuse. Of­fi­cials said they had pi­loted the ads in hard-hit ar­eas of Ohio, Ore­gon, Rhode Is­land and West Vir­ginia ear­lier this year, and will launch an­other round of ads in Ohio, Mas­sachusetts, New Mex­ico and Ken­tucky.

Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Thomas Price an­nounced at the sum­mit that he’s about to be­gin dis­tribut­ing $485 mil­lion in grants to states to de­liver ad­dic­tion treat­ment and ex­pand the use of over­dose-re­vers­ing drugs such as Nalox­one.

“This year’s grants are far from the end of our com­mit­ment: There is an­other half-bil­lion dol­lars in state grants that will go out next year, based on what we learn from this round about what works best and what com­mu­ni­ties need,” Mr. Price said.

Opi­oid abuse is one is­sue that unites all sides in Wash­ing­ton, and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts have been seam­lessly picked up by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

On Capi­tol Hill, mem­bers of Congress in­creas­ingly are fo­cused on try­ing to get ahead of the epi­demic, hop­ing to rein in drug com­pa­nies’ mar­ket­ing tac­tics, limit the sup­ply of painkillers for things like bro­ken bones or tooth pain, and root out il­licit fen­tanyl and the syn­thetic opi­oids be­ing smug­gled through the postal ser­vice.

Act­ing CDC Direc­tor Anne Schuchat said while the U.S. has made strides in cut­ting rates of heart dis­ease and other ill­nesses, over­dose deaths are “one of the few ar­eas we’re go­ing back­ward in.”

“Preven­tion is the best way to save lives and is the most cost-ef­fec­tive way to save lives, so we hope it will be pri­or­i­tized,” she said.

Sens. Kirsten Gil­li­brand, New York Demo­crat, and John Mc­Cain, Ari­zona Repub­li­can, this month filed leg­is­la­tion that would limit the sup­ply of opi­oid painkillers to just seven days if a pa­tient is be­ing treated for acute pain, such as a wis­dom tooth ex­trac­tion, as op­posed to long-term sce­nar­ios such as cancer treat­ment or hospice care.

“Our bi­par­ti­san bill would tar­get one of the root causes of the opi­oid ad­dic­tion cri­sis, which is the over-pre­scrip­tion of these pow­er­ful and ad­dic­tive drugs for acute pain,” Ms. Gil­li­brand said.

Mr. Mc­Cain said the leg­is­la­tion is mod­eled af­ter an ex­ec­u­tive or­der Ari­zona Gov. Doug Ducey is­sued in Oc­to­ber.

The gov­er­nor, cit­ing a young boy who was sent home with a 30-day sup­ply of opi­oids af­ter a den­tal pro­ce­dure, said at the time that easy ac­cess to pow­er­ful pills “has to stop.”

Dr. Schuchat, who pre­viewed the cam­paign at the At­lanta sum­mit, said the CDC laid the ground­work for its con­sumer out­reach by tight­en­ing its pre­scrib­ing guide­lines last year.

But to change be­hav­iors, they knew it was im­por­tant to reach out to con­sumers as well, so pa­tients and doc­tors can have a di­a­logue about what’s nec­es­sary to man­age pain, she said.

“I think we rec­og­nized that over­pre­scrib­ing was a big prob­lem here,” Dr. Schuchat said.

The new CDC aware­ness cam­paign fo­cuses on Amer­i­cans ages 25 to 54 who have taken opi­oids for ei­ther med­i­cal or recre­ational use.

The CDC has spent $4.2 mil­lion so far. It hopes to tap a mix of fed­eral re­sources from an im­mi­nent spend­ing bill in Congress and state funds to fine­tune and dis­trib­ute the ads in dozens of other states by next month.

The CDC hopes the ads are just as suc­cess­ful as its “Tips from for­mer smok­ers” ads, which fea­tured heart­break­ing sto­ries from peo­ple suf­fer­ing from the ill ef­fects of cig­a­rettes. The spots linked to a CDC web­site and tip line, and prompted an es­ti­mated 500,000 peo­ple to quit.

Sim­i­larly, the opi­oid ads link to a CDC web­site on drug over­doses. Of­fi­cials said the pi­loted ads pro­duced 350,000 hits dur­ing the first round.

“Our ini­tial as­sess­ment is they re­ally res­onated,” Dr. Schuchat said.

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