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Attorney General William Tong



Attorney General William Tong joined members of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sharing concerns about the Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force Draft Report. The letter signed by 39 state and territory attorneys general was addressed to Dr. Vanila Singh, chief medical officer for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health.

As it stands, the Draft Report deviates from guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which are aimed at decreasing the risk of opioid misuse.

"As the opioid epidemic continues to take hold of our community, it is incomprehensible that officials would consider abandoning key components of CDC guidelines that have helped decrease the high rates of prescription drug abuse. Moving away from these guidelines would only further exacerbate this public health crisis," said Attorney General Tong. "We need to stop this epidemic from spreading, secure the resources needed to provide treatment, and pursue laws and practices that reduce the high volume of opioids in our communities. Our office is aggressively continuing its litigation against Purdue Pharma, as well as its managers and current and former board members, to hold those responsible accountable for their role in this epidemic."

The Draft Report suggests providers can rely solely on their judgement instead of consulting evidence-based recommendations. By doing so, it weakens recommendations for opioid prescription duration and dosage.

“As attorneys general, we have witnessed the devastating effect of unfettered opioid manufacturing, distribution and prescribing on our public health, social services and criminal justice systems. The well-established risks associated with higher doses of opioids, prescriptions of longer duration, and concurrent prescriptions of opioids and benzodiazepines demand continued constraints,” reads the NAAG letter.

The letter includes several other concerns, including that HHS does not provide a reason for departing from evidence-based CDC guidelines and does not explicitly state that there is no completely safe opioid dosage.

“Moving away from the CDC Guideline at this critical time would undermine ongoing legislative initiatives, as well as refinements to standards of medical care,” the letter continued. “As a matter of public safety, there is simply no justification to move away from the CDC Guideline to encourage more liberal use of an ineffective treatment that causes nearly 50,000 deaths annually.”

In 2017, 1,038 people in Connecticut died of accidental drug overdoses. Prescription opioids account for nearly 70 percent of fatal prescription drug overdoses.

Connecticut is one of more than 40 states that joined a multistate investigation that was launched to investigate both drug manufacturers' and distributors' role in the opioid epidemic. Connecticut is one of the states leading the investigation.

In December 2018, the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma alleging that the Stamford-based company waged a pervasive and aggressive campaign to push patients toward its opioids. The lawsuit alleges that Purdue Pharma peddled a series of falsehoods and downplayed risks while reaping massive profits from sales as opioid addiction skyrocketed.
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