U.S. urges doctors to write more Rx for overdose antidote

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By Associated Press

The U.S. government told doctors this week to consider prescribing medications that reverse overdoses to many more patients who take opioid painkillers, a move that could add more than $1 billion in health care costs.

Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir, a doctor appointed by President Donald Trump, announced the guidance on Wednesday, saying it’s important for doctors to discuss overdose dangers with patients.

Prescribing the overdose medication naloxone, which is sold under the brand names Narcan and Ezvio, along with opioids forces a conversation that will lead to “a more informed decision by the patient,” he said.

The action comes a day after a close vote from a Food and Drug Administration expert panel endorsing the idea of rewriting opioid drug labels to include a naloxone recommendation for many or all patients. An FDA document said such a move could add more than $1 billion in health care costs.

“Even at a billion, it would be an investment that is well worth it,” Giroir said.

More than 47,600 Americans died of opioid overdoses last year, a toll that has been rising for two decades. The street drug fentanyl is the top killer today, but prescription painkillers are still a problem, contributing to nearly 15,000 overdose deaths last year.