400,000 dead and counting: How Did We Get Here?

Susan M. Collins ,U.S. Senator [R] Maine, OCTOBER 5, 2017 Opioid Crisis 1:00

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee convened a hearing on federal response to the nation’s opioid epidemic.

In a recent Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee convened for a hearing on federal response to the nation’s opioid epidemic, Susan M. Collins , the U.S. Senator from Maine asked the panel of Governmental administrators.

“We passed legislation, increased funding , we recognize that you have to focus on education and prevention, law enforcement treatment and recovery, and yet we seem not to be making any progress that we need to make”.

Senator Collins frustration is understandable. In her state of Maine hundreds of its citizens have died as a result of the Opioid Epidemic in the past two decades. Nationally, hundred of thousands have died and more have been seriously harmed due to Opioid misuse. Billions of dollars have been appropriated nationally, by states and localities.

In previous hearing, Oxycontin: Balancing Risks And Benefits, conducted by the Senate subcommittee February 12, 2002 titled On Examining The Effects Of The Painkiller Oxycontin, Focusing On Federal, State And Local Efforts To Decrease Abuse And Misuse Of This Product While Assuring Availability For Patients Who Suffer Daily From Chronic Moderate To Severe Pain, the senator noted that

“ The first step toward any solution, of course, is to understand the problem and that is why I am so pleased that an outstanding community leader, Nancy Green, is here with us today to help us understand the problem in Washington County, Maine and, by extension, the problem that faces communities across the Nation.”

“ I have been convinced that we need a comprehensive approach that includes prevention, education, training for physicians, substance abuse treatment programs, and assistance to law enforcement…”

“One final point that I want to explore includes the circumstances surrounding the marketing of OxyContin by its manufacturer and its rise to becoming the 18th best selling prescription drug in the country and the number one opiate painkiller. Serious questions have been raised about Purdue Pharma's marketing of OxyContin and its education of physicians and thus the ability of some physicians to properly prescribe the drug. This issue prompts still further questions about whether additional Federal and State regulation and monitoring is needed.

The answers to these questions cannot erase the damage already done by OxyContin abuse to far too many people in my State and throughout the country but let us not forget that other powerful drugs, some of them in development now, may become the OxyContin of the future if we do not learn from the lessons of the past couple of years and act on them today.”

At the same hearing Senator Warner concluded:
"I think we have had very good opening statements and what strikes me is the localization of this problem in just certain areas within my State, within your State, yet how serious they are in those localities. And if we do not get a responsible response to this issue that could spread like wildfire across the United States and become a national catastrophe. So I think it is important that we have this landmark hearing here in the Senate."


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