AHRQ Views: Blog posts from AHRQ leaders
AHRQ Stands Ready To Assist Secretary Azar in the Fight Against Opioid Epidemic
We are truly excited to work with the newly appointed Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, who arrives at his post ready to advocate for the health of the American people.
Secretary Azar is no stranger to HHS, having served in various roles during President George W. Bush's administration. I had the pleasure of meeting with him last week, when he told me that defeating the opioid crisis is one of his highest priorities.
Given the Secretary's longstanding devotion to improving public health, it's no surprise that he's eager to continue HHS' battle against the epidemic. He inherits a well-established infrastructure designed to tackle opioid dependence and abuse, while reducing the thousands of hospitalizations and tragic deaths that have resulted from the misuse of legal and illegal opioids. The HHS five-point strategy to combat the opioid epidemic is comprehensive:
AHRQ is actively helping to achieve many of the aims that are part of the Department's far reaching strategy to address the crisis. As I wrote in a recent blog, the Agency was intensely involved in the battle against opioids in 2017.
For 2018, we plan to maintain our commitment not only with opioid-related research projects, but also with toolkits to help providers improve pain management and with data for policymakers on how the opioid crisis is affecting their communities at the Federal, State and county level.
Allow me to offer a few specifics:
Later this month, AHRQ plans to release a first-of-its-kind dataset that will provide a county-by-county look at hospitalizations linked to the misuse of opioids, alcohol, and other substances. These data from our Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project will allow researchers, policymakers, and others to make useful, small-scale comparisons about how opioids, alcohol, and other drugs are affecting their specific counties and communities.
An AHRQ-funded grantee helped develop a new website, "Prevent & Protect" that assists opioid users, their loved ones, public health departments, or other community organizations gain access to naloxone, a potentially life-saving drug that reverses overdoses. The new website also provides tools for organizations conducting overdose prevention and naloxone advocacy, outreach, and communication campaigns.
Also later this month, AHRQ will post a comprehensive report that reviews the evidence on noninvasive, non-pharmacological treatments for chronic pain. As we look for alternatives to treat and manage chronic pain without using opioids, we need to know if those treatment methods are effective and safe.
Like Secretary Azar, AHRQ is fully committed to the national battle against opioid misuse. In 2018, we'll continue to sponsor research aimed at informing emerging strategies to battle the epidemic. We'll continue to collect and disseminate data to show where the needs for support might be greatest. And we'll continue to develop tools to equip clinicians, families, public health advocates, and others as they confront the opioids scourge firsthand.
Gopal Khanna is the Director of AHRQ.