By Cynthia Matossian
In the course of the previous 18 months, the coronavirus has devastated communities throughout the nation. It has taken its best toll on our nation’s seniors — with more than 95% of COVID-19-related deaths occurring amongst sufferers over age 50. But, because the Delta variant continues to gas the general public well being emergency, older Individuals are nonetheless dealing with the impression of America’s different epidemic: the opioid disaster.
Opioid overdoses took a staggering 93,000 lives in 2020, nearly 3,000 of those in New Jersey. Whereas the opioid disaster is commonly seen as one affecting youthful Individuals, the nation’s older inhabitants is struggling, too. Final 12 months, one in four Medicare beneficiaries obtained opioid prescriptions by means of Half D, and more than 43,000 beneficiaries suffered an opioid overdose. In 2019 alone, nearly 10,000 Americans over the age of 55 died due to an opioid overdose. As a result of the nation’s opioid crisis was first fueled by an increased prescribing of powerful, addictive painkillers, the power of medical doctors and sufferers to make use of secure ache administration alternate options may help forestall overdose and save lives.
To guard America’s mother and father and grandparents, the bipartisan Non-Opioids Prevent Addiction in the Nation (NOPAIN) Act would make sure that Medicare beneficiaries can entry non-opioid remedies, medicine, and gadgets, when applicable, by altering outdated Medicare insurance policies that incentivize physicians to depend on doubtlessly addictive opioid drugs. By passing this laws, Congress can enhance entry to important remedies for seniors in New Jersey and throughout the entire nation.
On the middle of the opioid drawback is the excessive variety of opioid prescriptions written by physicians to deal with ache throughout and after surgical procedure. Whereas opioids are applicable for some people in sure conditions, they don’t seem to be a silver-bullet therapy. Usually, physicians can deal with ache safely and successfully utilizing various approaches akin to medical gadgets that concentrate on the ache receptors within the affected person’s nervous system or medicine like long-acting native anesthetics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine (NSAIDs). Whereas opioid-based ache drugs are an vital therapeutic possibility for physicians, they shouldn’t be the default therapy for sufferers when there are secure, efficient alternate options out there.
As an ophthalmologist within the better Trenton space, I strongly imagine in making certain entry to non-opioid ache administration approaches since sufferers generally expertise ache throughout and even after cataract surgical procedure. Sadly, federal well being coverage doesn’t absolutely replicate the ache administration worth of non-opioid alternate options. One of many principal limitations stopping medical doctors from treating their sufferers with non-opioid therapies is Medicare’s current fee coverage for surgical procedures.
As presently written, the price of surgical non-opioid remedy is, at greatest, minimally coated and reimbursed by Medicare, that means that physicians or sufferers usually should pay out of their very own pocket for sufferers to entry non-opioid remedies. In the meantime, opioid-based ache drugs value sufferers and suppliers little or nothing, giving physicians a monetary incentive to deal with their sufferers with opioids — even when different choices could be safer or more practical.
As many sufferers proceed to make use of opioids prescribed after surgery for longer than the beneficial period of time, the nation’s overreliance on doubtlessly addictive painkillers dangers making the overdose disaster even worse. With more than half of the population over 65 requiring surgical procedure sooner or later, it’s important that we shield our seniors from opioid abuse and dependancy whereas conserving our communities secure from opioid diversion. Not solely do non-opioid alternate options scale back the necessity for opioids, however they’re additionally secure and efficient in treating ache. For instance, one program in Paterson confirmed that as much as 75% of patients reported attaining enough ache reduction by means of non-opioid various remedies. Sufferers can relaxation assured that their ache can usually be managed by means of non-addictive, secure, and efficient therapies.
As we proceed combating COVID-19, defending our seniors and addressing the opioid epidemic should even be a precedence for our lawmakers. I urge Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez to help the NOPAIN Act to make sure extra sufferers have entry to secure, efficient non-opioid ache administration therapies. This bipartisan laws is a transparent answer that can put us nearer to ending this disaster.
By taking over a significant contributor to the issue — the overreliance on opioids to deal with ache — the NOPAIN Act is a crucial and essential step in stopping New Jersey’s seniors from unnecessarily risking dependancy and overdose. I, along with my fellow New Jerseyans, hope our senators will be a part of U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) in supporting the NOPAIN Act to the opioid public well being disaster.
Cynthia Matossian, MD, FACS, is the founder and chief government officer of Matossian Eye Associates, an built-in ophthalmology and optometry non-public follow with areas in Mercer County, New Jersey, and Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
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