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Effectiveness of Policies for Addressing the US Opioid Epidemic: A Model-Based Analysis from the Stanford-Lancet Commission on the North American Opioid Crisis.

Rao IJ, Humphreys K, Brandeau ML. Effectiveness of Policies for Addressing the US Opioid Epidemic: A Model-Based Analysis from the Stanford-Lancet Commission on the North American Opioid Crisis. Lancet Regional Health. Americas. 2021 Nov 1; 3.

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Abstract:

Background: The U.S. opioid crisis has been exacerbated by COVID-19 and the spread of synthetic opioids (e.g., fentanyl). Methods: We model the effectiveness of reduced prescribing, drug rescheduling, prescription monitoring programs (PMPs), tamper-resistant drug reformulation, excess opioid disposal, naloxone availability, syringe exchange, pharmacotherapy, and psychosocial treatment. We measure life years, quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), and opioid-related deaths over five and ten years. Findings: Under the status quo, our model predicts that approximately 547,000 opioid-related deaths will occur from 2020 to 2024 (range 441,000 - 613,000), rising to 1,220,000 (range 996,000 - 1,383,000) by 2029. Expanding naloxone availability by 30% had the largest effect, averting 25% of opioid deaths. Pharmacotherapy, syringe exchange, psychosocial treatment, and PMPs are uniformly beneficial, reducing opioid-related deaths while leading to gains in life years and QALYs. Reduced prescribing and increasing excess opioid disposal programs would reduce total deaths, but would lead to more heroin deaths in the short term. Drug rescheduling would increase total deaths over five years as some opioid users escalate to heroin, but decrease deaths over ten years. Combined interventions would lead to greater increases in life years, QALYs, and deaths averted, although in many cases the results are subadditive. Interpretation: Expanded health services for individuals with opioid use disorder combined with PMPs and reduced opioid prescribing would moderately lessen the severity of the opioid crisis over the next decade. Tragically, even with improved public policies, significant morbidity and mortality is inevitable.





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