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December 21, 2020

Around the nation: CDC warns of 'concerning acceleration' in drug overdose deaths

Daily Briefing

    CDC said provisional data shows more than 81,230 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States between June 2019 and May 2020, the largest number of drug overdose deaths CDC has ever recorded in a 12-month period, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from California, the District of Columbia, and Georgia.

    • California: GoodRx on Wednesday announced that it has begun offering telehealth and no-cost mail-order pharmacy services under its GoodRx Gold subscription program. Subscribers can use the new services to virtually seek care from a provider for more than 150 conditions—including for cold and flu symptoms, urinary tract infections, cold sores, acne, contraceptives, and Covid-19 screenings—with costs starting at $10. If providers prescribe a prescription during subscribers' visit, subscribers will get a discount of up to 90% off the prescription at pharmacies near them, or they can have their prescribed treatment mailed directly to them through GoodRx's mail-order pharmacy service (Anderson, Becker's Hospital Review, 12/16).
    • District of Columbia: A group of attorneys general (AGs) from 27 states and the District of Columbia in a letter recently sent to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Thomas Engels, the administrator of HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), called on HHS and HRSA to address drugmakers' refusal to provide discounts to community health centers, safety net hospitals, and other entities covered under the federal 340B Drug Pricing Program. The AGs claimed that some drugmakers are violating the program's requirements by no longer providing discounts to some program participants, either by implementing new contract conditions or imposing restrictions on the discounts. The AGs sent the letter after a group of five hospital associations, three 340B hospitals, and a pharmacist association filed a lawsuit claiming HHS failed to enforce certain requirements of the 340B program and prevent drugmakers from lowering their discounts to participating hospitals (King, FierceHealthcare, 12/14).
    • Georgia: CDC on Thursday issued an advisory warning health care providers of a "concerning acceleration" in drug overdose deaths that coincides with America's novel coronavirus epidemic. CDC said provisional data shows around 81,230 drug-overdose deaths occurred in the United States between June 2019 and May 2020, which is the largest number of drug-overdose deaths CDC has ever recorded in a 12-month period. The agency said "the largest increase" in overdose deaths occurred from March 2020 to May 2020, which is when states throughout the country began implementing widespread measures to mitigate the coronavirus's spread. CDC said overdoses involving synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, primarily drove the spike in overdose deaths—with deaths tied to synthetic opioids increasing by 38.4% from 2018-2019 to 2019-2020 (Kornfield, Washington Post, 12/17; Fernandez, Axios, 12/17).

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