Editor’s note: Today’s editorials originally appeared in The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.
The Trump administration’s efforts to eliminate or revamp government regulations, rules and guidelines that are unnecessary, counterproductive or foolish might be productive when appropriately applied.
But the administration, specifically the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is blundering in its effort to eliminate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention opioid prescribing guidelines in the midst of a national opioid epidemic. Now is not the time to reduce efforts to curb abuse of the highly addictive drugs that are leaving death and ruined lives in their wake.
This week Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a Democrat, and Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, a Republican, are leading a bipartisan coalition of 38 other attorneys general urging the federal government to reverse course on its proposal to eliminate opioid prescribing guidelines.
The guidelines issued by the CDCP in 2016 aim to curb overprescribing by providing health providers a framework for when to recommend the painkilling drug to patients. Ferguson, in a news release, said overprescribing contributes to the opioid epidemic by increasing the illegal supply of opioids. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proposed eliminating key components of the guidelines in a draft report issued December 2018, specifically provisions relating to dose and duration of opioid treatment.
This is just flat-out wrong. The pressure must be kept on to curb this epidemic.
Ferguson is at the helm of this effort by two-thirds of the states’ attorneys general because he has demonstrated the resolve to tackle the opioid problem.
Ferguson’s office last month launched a lawsuit against three opioid distributors the attorney general said ignored their responsibility to suspend and report suspicious orders from Washington state pharmacies. The lawsuit is against McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen Drug, which are largest opioid distributors in the state. Earlier, Ferguson’s office sued opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma.
Ferguson and Montana’s Fox cowrote the letter to Health and Human Services contending the HHS draft report pushes the same discredited claims that opioid manufacturers made for years before the epidemic, including the baseless assertion that opioids only have addictive properties in certain at-risk populations.
The pair point out that studies show anyone who takes an opioid is at risk for misuse and addiction, especially if they are exposed to longer duration prescriptions.
A study of a million surgical patients who had not previously taken opioids found that each additional week of opioid treatment increased the risk for opioid misuse by 20 percent, they wrote, adding that a refill increased their risk by 44 percent.
This fact make it clear that more, not less, should be done to keep people from being hooked on opioids.
The federal government should listen to a majority of the state attorneys general in America.
Raising age to buy tobacco is sound policy
State lawmakers made a gutsy — and appropriate — call last week when they decided to make Washington the eighth state to raise the age to legally purchase cigarettes, vaping cartridges and other tobacco products from 18 to 21.
Those who resisted raising the age to buy cigarettes argue that since 18-year-olds are considered adults, they have a right to make decisions — even stupid ones — that will impact their health negatively. They then question why we send 18-year-olds to war but won’t let them buy cigarettes.
“Either you’re an adult at 18 or you’re not,” said Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn. “This is a personal-freedom issue.”
That’s simply not true. It’s long been established that one must be 21 to buy alcohol products. Same for marijuana. Different standards are in place for renting cars. Those who are under 25 years old pay more.
These adjustments are made for social and economic reasons.
And that’s exactly why Washington state is joining Oregon, California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine, Massachusetts and Virginia. The New England Journal of Medicine predicts that, nationally, raising the age to 21 would result in about 250,000 fewer premature deaths a year.
The move to raise the age was not done to specifically keep 18- to 20-year-olds from having access to tobacco products, but to create a buffer between 18-year-olds — often fellow high school students — who provide younger teens access to cigarettes. It’s simply reality.
State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the legislation would not only reduce smoking but also vaping among teens “because 18- to 20-year-olds supply younger teens with tobacco and vape products.”
Juul, the company that makes the popular candy-flavored vaping device, got behind the effort to increase the purchasing age.
“We cannot fulfill our mission to provide the world’s one billion adult smokers with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes if youth use continues unabated,” said Ted Kwong, spokesman for Juul.
The move isn’t going to change the world, or even the state, but it will ultimately reduce smoking and therefore have a positive impact on some people’s health.
And this will save money for Washingtonians and taxpayers, as health-care costs are subsidized for many.
Efforts to reduce smoking is good public health policy.