A coalition of attorneys general, including California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra, have urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to provide an update on its current actions and information on its proposed work to help combat the opioid epidemic.
There is a sense of urgency for this information because studies have shown the COVID-19 crisis has fueled a devastating rise in overdoses with opioid deaths outpacing COVID-19 fatalities.
In 2018, Congress passed the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act (SUPPORT Act) which gave the FDA new authority and new requirements for regulating opioids. The goal—to reduce their abuse and also to set guidelines for prescribing opioids and encouraging additional research and safety measures.
“We’re calling on Commissioner Hahn to provide an update on what the FDA has done and will continue to do to help us fight the growing opioid epidemic,” Becerra said. “When the pandemic started, we were in the midst of the opioid epidemic and working to help our communities fight it. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit us all and further exacerbated the opioid crisis—people need support now more than ever. As a coalition, our goal is to work with the FDA to reduce opioid abuse.”
Becerra cited the impact of overdose deaths in San Francisco, 621 in December, as an example of its impact compared to 173 deaths resulting from COVID-19 during the same period. “The FDA plays a critical role in controlling the opioid epidemic, as the agency is tasked with ensuring the safety and efficacy of opioids and promoting safer, non-addictive alternatives for treating pain,” he advised.
In their letter to the FDA, the AGs requested an update on its action in relation to the SUPPORT Act including research and issuance of new regulations on non-addictive alternatives to opioids and requirements for drugs to be made available in safer packaging with safe disposal features.
A copy of the coalition’s letter is available here.