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National Opioid Awareness Day

National Opioid Awareness Day

Addictive, strong, and inexpensive, opioids, which include opiates and fentanyl, helped cause nearly 841,000 deaths to drug overdoses between 1999 and 2020. While it is easy to dismiss opioid related deaths as another drug related lapse in judgement, opioid addiction can occur from legal, prescribed medication. National Opioid Awareness Day hopes to highlight the dangers of opioids and remove the associated stigma of opioid addiction and opioid overdoses.

Opioids are a highly addictive substance. Medical use of opioids is often left as a final resort due to the addictive nature of such medication and typically only used in the absence of safer alternatives. The opioid epidemic in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is due to the overuse of opioid medications both through medical prescriptions and illegal sources.

Between 1999 and 2020, it is believed that 500,000 drug overdose deaths were caused by opioids. In 2017, 47,600 opioid related deaths were recorded and according to a report from 2017, it is estimated that 130 people in the U.S. die every day from opioid-related drug overdose.

The history of opioids and opioid-related drug overdoses is complicated and often intermingled with legal and legitimate prescription opioid medication addiction. It is important to acknowledge the dangers of such addictions and remove the stigma associated with opioids. September 21 is National Opioid Awareness Day – a perfect time to help in correcting misunderstandings about opioid addiction and opioid-related drug overdoses.

For more important information on opioid addiction, overdose, and National Opioid Awareness Day, please visit:




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Kurt von Tish

CDC Releases Updated Monkeypox Vaccine Information Statement

CDC Releases Updated Monkeypox Vaccine Information Statement

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This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an updated Vaccine Information Sheet (VIS) for smallpox/monkeypox. Monkeypox is an emerging infection currently spreading around the world, including in the United States. While monkeypox tends to be milder than smallpox, it can cause death.

The VIS answers the question, “Why get vaccinated for smallpox/monkeypox?” The updated document also explains how the vaccine works, the recommended vaccine schedule, and CDC’s recommendations for who should be vaccinated—especially laboratory workers, emergency response team members, and those who care for patients who could be infected with the viruses.

The updated VIS should be used by providers immediately, though it is acceptable to continue using the previous edition until stocks are exhausted.

You can access the updated VIS on the CDC website.

The State Data Resource Center’s Recommendations to Support Vaccine Equity

BETHESDA, MD – As of April 26, 29 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. Vaccines are now available to all U.S. adults, and 2.6 million doses are being administered in the United States every day. As vaccination rates continue to increase, it is important that vaccine distribution is monitored to ensure that vulnerable populations are reached. Ensuring equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine—recognized as a national priority by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) —requires that data are available and appropriately used to evaluate socioeconomic and demographic vaccine distribution trends.

Earlier this month, the State Data Resource Center (SDRC) released information to support states in identifying COVID-19 vaccination Medicare claims among their dually eligible beneficiaries. SDRC was established by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in 2011 to help states obtain dually eligible beneficiary data. Econometrica supports CMS in providing resources to states to assist in requesting and using Medicare data files for care coordination and program integrity purposes.

The COVID-19 vaccine information was posted as an announcement on the SDRC website, developed and operated by Econometrica, and includes a recommended process for identifying COVID-19 vaccine claims in both the Coordination of Benefits Agreement (eCOBA) file and the monthly Parts A and B dataset. In both files, Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) codes are used to identify COVID-19 vaccine claims. Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson each have their own assigned HCPCS codes with additional vaccine administration codes that specify whether the claim was the individual’s first or second dose.

In addition to identifying COVID-19 vaccine claims and ensuring each beneficiary received the appropriate number of doses, SDRC recommends that states link these claims to the beneficiary’s demographic information. In doing so, disparities in vaccine uptake across race/ethnicity, disability status, or geography can be evaluated and addressed.

The SDRC announcement highlights an important opportunity for state Medicaid agencies. Analyses, made possible through the use of SDRC data and the SDRC support team, can help to inform policy. By identifying any racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic disparities in access to COVID-19 vaccines, state policymakers can shift their distribution plans to ensure vaccines are available to vulnerable, dually eligible beneficiaries.

Vaccines are now available to all U.S. adults, and 2.6 million doses are being administered in the United States every day.

Opioid Use Disorder and the Medicare/Medicaid Population

Opioid Use Disorder and the Medicare/Medicaid Population

SolutionsSubstanceBETHESDA, MD – The United States has long been engulfed in an opioid epidemic that stemmed from increased prescribing of opioids in the 1990s and is characterized today by use of synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, as well as illicit opioids such as heroin.[1] By 2017, there were 58 opioid prescriptions written for every 100 Americans.[2] This rise in opioid use has led to an increased prevalence of Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) in a variety of populations.

OUD—which may involve the misuse of prescribed opioid medications, diverted opioid medications, or illicitly obtained heroin—is typically a chronic, relapsing illness associated with significant rates of morbidity and mortality.[3] The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, describes OUD as a “pattern of opioid use leading to problems or distress,” with at least two of the following occurring within a 12-month period:[4]

  1. Taking larger amounts or taking drugs over a longer period than intended.
  2. Persistent desire or unsuccessful effort to cut down or control opioid use.
  3. Spending a great deal of time obtaining or using the opioid or recovering from its effects.
  4. Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use opioids.
  5. Problems fulfilling obligations at work, school, or home.
  6. Continued opioid use despite having recurring social or interpersonal problems.
  7. Giving up or reducing activities because of opioid use.
  8. Using opioids in physically hazardous situations.
  9. Continued opioid use despite ongoing physical or psychological problems likely to have been caused or worsened by opioids.
  10. Increased tolerance (i.e., need for increased amounts, or diminished effect with continued use of the same amount).
  11. Experiencing withdrawal (opioid withdrawal syndrome) or taking opioids (or a closely related substance) to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Although OUD is similar to other substance use disorders, there are many unique features, including risk of physical dependence in as little as 4 to 8 weeks and severe symptoms such as chills, cramps, vomiting, and insomnia during withdrawal.[3] Despite its unique features, the factors contributing to OUD are very general and can include ease of access, environmental and genetic factors, social support system, addictivity of the drug, and early use.

Looking at the rate of opioid prescribing among Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries can help us gain an understanding of the development of OUD in America. In 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) analyzed the prevalence of OUD among beneficiaries and reported that 6 out of every 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries and 8.7 of every 1,000 Medicaid beneficiaries suffer from OUD.[5] Using data from 2006 to 2015, another CMS study found that 23.5 percent of dual-eligible beneficiaries in 2015 had a substance use disorder.[6] For the Medicaid-only population, there were 31 million opioid claims in 2017, and opioid prescriptions represented 4.57 percent of all Medicaid prescription claims.[7] One year earlier, in 2016, 14.4 million of the 43.6 million Medicare-only beneficiaries enrolled in Part D received opioids.[8]

The national data for OUD and opioid prescriptions is presented here to provide the foundation for a larger discussion around OUD in the United States. Over the course of this series of newsletters, we will dive into topics such as OUD treatment options, how COVID-19 is impacting treatment centers across the country, and much more.

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2020). Opioid overdose: Understanding the epidemic. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html.

[2] CDC. (2020). Opioid overdose: Prescribing practices. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/prescribing/ prescribing-practices.html.

[3] Strain, E. (2020). Opioid use disorder: Epidemiology, pharmacology, clinical manifestations, course, screening, assessment, and diagnosis. UpToDate. Retrieved from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/opioid-use-disorder-epidemiology-pharmacology-clinical-manifestations-course-screening-assessment-and-diagnosis.

[4] American Psychiatric Association. (2018). Opioid use disorder. Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction/opioid-use-disorder/opioid-use-disorder.

[5] CMS. (2018, June 11). CMS opioids roadmap. CMS.gov Blog. Retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/blog/cms-opioids-roadmap.

[6] Anderson, K. K., Hendrick, F., & McClair, V. (2018, October). Data analysis brief: National trends in high-dose chronic opioid utilization among dually eligible and Medicare-only beneficiaries (2006-2015). Retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/Medicare-Medicaid-Coordination/Medicare-and-Medicaid-Coordination/Medicare-Medicaid-Coordination-Office/DataStatisticalResources/Downloads/OpioidsDataBrief_2006-2015_10242018.pdf

[7] CMS. (2019). Medicaid State Opioid Prescribing Mapping Tool. Retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/Medicare-Provider-Charge-Data/OpioidMap

[8] Office of Inspector General. (2017, July). Opioids in Medicare Part D: Concerns about extreme use and questionable prescribing [OEI-02-17-00250]. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Retrieved from https://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-02-17-00250.pdf.

About Econometrica:

Founded in 1998, Econometrica is a research and management organization in Bethesda, MD, established to provide public- and private-sector clients with customized program support services. Econometrica works with multiple agencies to provide high-quality, cost-effective analyses, modeling, and economic evaluations. The company consistently receives exceptional scores from its clients and believes in three principles: technical capabilities, happy customers, and business development.

Opioid Use Disorder (OUD)—which may involve the misuse of prescribed opioid medications, diverted opioid medications, or illicitly obtained heroin—is typically a chronic, relapsing illness associated with significant rates of morbidity and mortality.

Press Contact

Kurt von Tish