SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra joined a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general today in urging the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to provide an update on its current actions and information on the agency’s future work to help combat the opioid epidemic. Studies have shown that the COVID-19 crisis has fueled a devastating rise in overdoses with opioid deaths outpacing COVID-19 fatalities. To combat the opioid epidemic, the U.S. Congress passed the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act (SUPPORT Act) in 2018. The law gave the FDA new authority and new requirements for regulating opioids in order to reduce their abuse, including setting guidelines for prescribing opioids and encouraging additional research and safety measures.
“Today we’re calling on Commissioner Hahn to provide an update on what the FDA has done and will continue to do to help us fight the growing opioid epidemic,” said Attorney General Becerra. “When the pandemic started, we were in the midst of the opioid epidemic and working to help our communities fight it. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit us all and further exacerbated the opioid crisis—people need support now more than ever. As a coalition, our goal is to work with the FDA to reduce opioid abuse.”
Last year, it was reported that a record 621 people had died of drug overdoses in San Francisco by early December. In contrast, the city recorded 173 deaths from COVID-19 during the same time period. The FDA plays a critical role in controlling the opioid epidemic, as the agency is tasked with ensuring the safety and efficacy of opioids and promoting safer, non-addictive alternatives for treating pain. In today’s letter, the coalition of attorneys general requested an update on the FDA’s actions to date under the SUPPORT Act, including:
Today’s effort is the latest action by Attorney General Becerra to protect California's communities and fight the opioid crisis. Last year, the Attorney General announced a $1.6 billion global settlement framework between state attorneys general, local subdivisions, and opioid manufacturer Mallinckrodt over the company’s participation in the opioid crisis. In September 2017, the Attorney General expanded his investigation of pharmaceutical manufacturers and the three largest distributors of opioids to determine if the companies engaged in unlawful practices in the marketing, sale, and distribution of opioids. The California Department of Justice also maintains California’s prescription drug monitoring program, CURES 2.0, which assists in efforts to curb prescription drug abuse.
Attorney General Becerra joined the attorneys general of New Mexico, West Virginia, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, U.S. Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin in sending today’s letter to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn.
A copy of the coalition’s letter is available here.