CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey joined with 45 states and three territories seeking information from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on how it is implementing a federal law dealing substance abuse treatment and recovery.
The National Association of Attorneys General sent a letter Monday to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn seeking a progress report on implementation of the Substance Use Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act, as known as the SUPPORT Act.
The 2018 law, among other things, gives the FDA additional authority when it comes regulating opioid medications, which as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and other addictive medications prescribed for pain and often abused.
“We also recognize the vital role the FDA plays in both ensuring the safety and efficacy of opioids and encouraging the availability of non-opioid, non-addictive alternatives for the treatment of pain,” the letter stated. “This role was highlighted in the SUPPORT Act which granted new authority to the FDA while also creating new requirements … we are interested to know what the FDA has already accomplished with its new authority … and what it plans to accomplish in the future.”
The attorneys general are seeking more details on the regulation of non-addictive pain products, prescribing guidelines for opioid analgesics, the packing and disposal features for opioids, and clarification on the FDA’s postmarket authority when it comes to studies and clinical trials.
“We welcome any other information you may wish to provide on any actions you have completed or have planned as they relate to the opioid epidemic,” the letter concluded. “Because of the importance of this topic, we would appreciate a response within the next month. We thank you for the actions you have already taken to combat this crisis and appreciate you as a powerful partner in this fight.”
The letter was a bipartisan effort of Republican and Democratic attorneys general, with Morrisey being the second signatory to the letter.
“The letter continues Attorney General Morrisey’s commitment to hold government agencies and other actors accountable as part of a holistic approach to attacking opioid abuse from a supply, demand and educational perspective,” said Curtis Johnson, communication director for the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office, in a press release Monday.
According to a Oct. 24, 2019, publication from the FDA, the SUPPORT Act was being implemented with more work to do.
“We will continue to implement the SUPPORT Act to build upon our efforts and adapt our responses to confront the changing nature of the opioid crisis,” said Dr. Norman Sharpless, the former acting FDA commissioner. “The agency will continue to use its regulatory authority to address this crisis, and the additional tools that the SUPPORT Act provides are helping us accomplish this vital work.”
According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, West Virginia saw 732 opioid overdose deaths in 2018, down from 869 deaths in 2017 at the peak of the opioid crisis in West Virginia. But according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, more than 81,000 drug overdose deaths have occurred in a 12-month period ending in May, with many of the deaths occurring during the Spring COVID-19 shutdowns.
“The disruption to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit those with substance use disorder hard,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC. “As we continue the fight to end this pandemic, it’s important to not lose sight of different groups being affected in other ways. We need to take care of people suffering from unintended consequences.”
Steven Allen Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org