Opinion writers talk about the opioid crisis and other health care topics.
The Washington Post: Opioid Deaths Are Down. But Challenges Continue.
As the 20th century came to a close, the United States faced many challenges, but a high rate of death from prescription opioid overdoses was not one of them. In 1999, 3,442 people died from taking excessive pain-killing substances such as oxycodone or hydromorphone. Each such death, of course, was a tragedy; but the country as a whole could not speak of a crisis. Only eight years later, the number of prescription opioid-related deaths had nearly quadrupled, reaching 12,796 in 2007 — and the United States was in the grip of an addiction crisis. It would ultimately morph into new epidemics of heroin and fentanyl use, leaving hundreds of thousands of people dead and families shattered all over America. (7/20)
The Washington Post: Opioid Deaths Are Down For The First Time In Decades. But The Crisis Of Addiction Is As Severe As Ever.
It’s finally official: On Wednesday, the government publicly released data showing that for the first time since 1990, drug overdose deaths in the United States have fallen from a little more than 70,000 in 2017 to 68,557 last year. That’s progress, but if half the number of people had died of opioid overdoses — or even a tenth — these figures would still qualify as a moral crisis. We still don’t know if this is the beginning of a sustained trend (deaths due to prescription opioid overdoses are plummeting, but overdoses involving fentanyl continue to surge). (Robert Gebelhoff, 7/19)
The New York Times: The Four Ordinary People Who Took On Big Pharma
In the beginning, there were just four: the Godfather from Philly, the Army sergeant from Georgia, the professor from California and the feisty mom from Florida. It was the early 2000s, and they usually talked over old-school computer message boards. Occasionally they gathered in person, carrying posters of their children and middle-aged spouses — all dead from OxyContin overdoses. Today we know just how dangerous this drug is. Purdue Pharma, the company that made OxyContin, the first extended-release opioid to be widely prescribed, may finally be held to account. (Beth Macy, 7/20)
The Hill: To Fight The Opioid Epidemic, We Must First Confront The Nature Of Addiction
In the U.S., there were more than 72,000 deaths from drug overdose in 2017, two-thirds of which were linked to opioids. And while provisional data for 2018 suggest a modest slowing of fatalities, we are still grappling with a nationwide drug crisis that in addition to prescription and synthetic opioids now encompasses a resurgence of methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine use across the country. It is a dire public health problem with profound consequences for families, communities and the economy. (Michael S. Rosenthal, 7/21)
The New York Times: Health Facts Aren’t Enough. Should Persuasion Become A Priority?
In a paper published early this year in Nature Human Behavior, scientists asked 500 Americans what they thought about foods that contained genetically modified organisms. The vast majority, more than 90 percent, opposed their use. This belief is in conflict with the consensus of scientists. Almost 90 percent of them believe G.M.O.s are safe — and can be of great benefit. The second finding of the study was more eye-opening. Those who were most opposed to genetically modified foods believed they were the most knowledgeable about this issue, yet scored the lowest on actual tests of scientific knowledge. (Aaron E. Carroll, 7/22)
Stat: Remove Economic Barriers To Living Donor Organ Transplants
For individuals suffering with end-stage liver disease, liver transplants — true miracles of modern medicine — can save their lives. Yet every day in the U.S., seven people die while waiting for a liver transplant. Many more die awaiting hearts, kidneys, and other organs. We have the technology, the high-tech operating rooms, the highly skilled clinical and surgical teams, all standing by. What we don’t have is enough organs. (Yuri Genyk, 7/19)
The Washington Post: Heart Attack Risk Picked Up By Coronary Calcium Scans
“Thin on the outside, fat on the inside.” That’s what my cardiologist called me, and I sure didn’t like it — or its abbreviation, TOFI, which sounds like a cross between tofu and toffee. But the moniker wasn’t the problem. A heart scan had revealed I had too much coronary calcium — plaque — in my blood vessels. With a score of 172, I was at “moderate to high” risk for a heart attack.This was in 2007, just before I turned 50. As my 40s waned, my total cholesterol, measured in a blood test, had begun to inch up. My triglycerides also had increased. My primary care physician wasn’t concerned. “You really fall into the gray area,” she told me. “We could go either way when it comes to starting you on a [cholesterol-lowering] statin.” (Petrow, 7/20)
The Hill: Patients Need A Health System That Helps Them Make Informed Decisions
For patients and their loved ones, navigating the U.S. health-care system can be a complex and daunting experience that often is made worse by the anxiety that accompanies a life-threatening illness or injury. But the vulnerabilities of patients and their families aren’t the only problem. Because the system often relegates them to a passive role, doctors and researchers are denied the valuable insights an equal partnership might provide. (Tanisha Carino and Marc Boutin, 7/19)
The Washington Post: I’m Thrilled To Be A Grandmother, Just Don’t Call Me Grandma
Yes. Of course. I was thrilled to learn that my 31-year-old son and his wife were expecting their first child this summer. I just wasn’t thrilled with the idea that someone will soon expect me to respond to “Grandma!” Grandma means old. Admit it. Isn’t that your first thought when you hear the word? (Oldenburg, 7/21)
Stat: I Wanted To Try Medical Marijuana. My Doctors Couldn’t Help
I managed to get through college in the 1980s without smoking marijuana. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with cancer in the 1990s that I decided to give it a try. The anti-nausea medicine I was taking to combat the side effects of chemotherapy made me feel like I was going to jump out of my skin and it didn’t banish my queasiness. (Berman, 7/19)
Boston Globe: I Was A Paramedic At The US Border. Kids Need Doctors Now.
What’s happening at the US border with Mexico is not a security crisis, but a humanitarian one, rooted in policies adopted decades ago. Its consequences won’t be fully understood for years, but we don’t have time to wait. Medics who treat the sick, injured, and dying on this civilian front line are calling for urgent action, and the government must heed that call. (Ieva Jusionyte, 7/18)
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.