Group will Protest Opioid Crisis

By FED UP, Special for  USDR

Thousands of people will peacefully demonstrate their frustration with the Obama Administration’s neglect of the opioid addiction epidemic at dozens of rallies across the country today. Since President Obama’s first term in 2008, the United States has experienced skyrocketing rates of overdose deaths and addiction involving prescription opioids and heroin, yet the President has never once spoken publicly about the crisis. In a strongly worded letter to President Obama, rally organizers compared his failure to speak about the opioid crisis to Ronald Reagan’s refusal to acknowledge the HIV epidemic until 1987 when 20,000 Americans had died from AIDS. Since the President’s first term in 2008, more than 124,000 Americans have died from prescription opioid and heroin  overdoses.

In April 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy held a press conference declaring an epidemic of opioid overdoses and vowing to reduce deaths by 15% in 5 years. Also announced was a plan by the administration to pursue mandatory education for prescribers in light of evidence that opioid overprescribing was fueling the crisis. However, the Obama Administration never sought funding for the plan nor was a proposal to mandate prescriber education put forward. Since 2011, instead of a decline in overdose deaths, every year overdose deaths increased and the epidemic has grown much more  severe.

Protestors at the rallies are also upset with what they see as President Obama’s failure to ensure that his agencies are working together in a coordinated fashion to address the crisis. “The CDC understands that opioid overprescribing caused the problem and is warning against long-term opioid use for common problems but FDA continues to approve dangerous new opioids, each one released with a campaign to increase prescribing,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, Director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing and Chief Medical Officer of Phoenix House, a national nonprofit addiction treatment agency. Last year, FDA was widely criticized for approving a new opioid called Zohydro over the objection of its own scientific advisors. In 2015, FDA approved two more new opioids without consulting its scientific advisory committee. Just this month, FDA bypassed an advisory committee to approve marketing of OxyContin for  children.

The Obama Administration recently proposed $100 million to address the opioid crisis. This was the first time the President’s budget included a request for funding for this issue. Judy Rummler, Chair of the Fed Up! Coalition and President of the Minnesota-based Steve Rummler Hope Foundation, expressed concern that only a small portion of the funding was for addiction treatment. “For a plague that’s devastated communities across the country, he’s offering very little very late,” Ms. Rummler  said.

Fed UP! rallies will also be held in Canada, which is suffering from a similarly severe epidemic of opioid addiction caused by overprescribing of opioid  painkillers.


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