Lawmakers call for Surgeon General’s report on opioid epidemic, ask how success of federal efforts to reduce opioid dependence and abuse will be measured


Nearly 25,000 Americans die each year from an opioid overdose

Washington (May 19, 2015) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) today called on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue a Surgeon General’s Report and Call to Action on prescription drug and heroin abuse. With the opioid crisis reaching epidemic proportions in Massachusetts, Kentucky and states across the nation, the Senators sent a letter to HHS requesting the Surgeon General report and additional information on HHS’s plan to measure progress on the recently-announced federal initiative to reduce opioid overdose deaths and addiction.

“Our home states of Massachusetts and Kentucky have been hit particularly hard by the opioid epidemic,” write the lawmakers in the letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell. “In Massachusetts alone, 2014 saw a 33 percent increase in overdoses from heroin or prescription painkillers since 2012, with more than 1,000 fatalities.  Similar statistics in Kentucky show that the state continues to lose more than 1,000 lives to overdoses each year.  In 2013, nearly 32 percent of these overdoses in Kentucky involved heroin. This crisis of opioid related overdoses strikes without regard to geography, age, race, or socio-economic status and it requires an immediate and sustained response. Given the magnitude of this epidemic, we believe a Surgeon General’s Report will help highlight the seriousness of this public health crisis and spur national efforts that can assist communities most in need.”

A copy of the letter to HHS can be found HERE.

Senators Markey and McConnell are also requesting information from HHS on how they plan to measure the success of the initiative announced earlier this year that seeks to reduce prescription opioid and heroin related overdose, death and dependence.