116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Settlement payments from opioid manufacturers and distributors totaling to $3.8 million will be directed toward a new statewide treatment and recovery program for Iowans with substance use disorders, officials announced Wednesday.
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office has signed an agreement with the University of Iowa Health Care to use settlement funds to expand opioid use disorder treatment statewide “to abate the terrible consequences of the opioid epidemic that we never should have had,” Attorney General Tom Miller told reporters.
“We’re excited to be able to turn the corner and start doing some work,” Miller said during a news conference.
Over the next five years, UI health care providers will train more physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other health care providers statewide to treat patients’ opioid use disorder using MAT, or Medication for Addiction Treatment.
There currently are 108 providers listed by federal officials who are MAT-trained statewide, making access to treatment options for Iowans with opioid use disorders difficult, UI officials said.
The announcement comes as substance use disorders and overdose deaths are on the rise across the United States, which some experts say may be driven by the increased stress and poor mental health as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Opioid-related deaths increased by 35 percent in Iowa in 2020, Iowa Department of Public Health data show. Two hundred thirteen opioid-related deaths were reported last year, compared to the 157 in 2019.
This rise in “self-destructive behaviors” has increased the demand for emergency and critical health care, putting more pressure on an system that already is stretched thin, Dr. Gerard Clancy, a professor of psychiatry and senior associate dean for external affairs at UI Carver College of Medicine, said during the news conference.
“It’s so important to have a statewide initiative for patients who are struggling with opioid addiction, but it’s very important to the clinicians as well that it provides them some relief and some tools to be able to help solve some of these really difficult problems.”
MAT proven to offset long-term use, reduce risk of overdose
Through this program, UI Health Care officials will train providers to offer patients buprenorphine — a medication prescribed to those with opioid use disorder that helps treat their symptoms.
In turn, the drug helps reduce long-term use of opioids and reduces patients’ risk of overdose, Dr. Alison Lynch, director of the opioid addiction clinic at UI Hospitals and Clinics and professor of psychiatry and family medicine, said during the conference.
“It does not make people high or euphoric, but it does make people feel more normal and it reduces cravings for opioids,” she said.
In addition, buprenorphine and other MAT prescriptions also has been proven to reduce use of other substances — including alcohol and methamphetamine.
Because it can be prescribed in a clinic or in an emergency room setting, Lynch said it is a more accessible MAT option than methadone, which must be dispensed in a designated clinic.
In 2018, UI opioid clinic providers received a $1.5 million, three-year grant to train clinicians statewide in MAT. Lynch said her team trained about 200 providers under that initiative.
Under the new program announced Wednesday, Lynch said she hopes to train an additional 200 providers, if not more, in the coming years.
Addiction specialists will offer consultation and continued support for providers treating patients with substance use disorder statewide. The Iowa City-based health system also will take on treatment for the most complex patient cases, either in-person or through telehealth services, Clancy said.
More dollars from opioid settlements to come
The $3.8 million for this new program comes from the settlement with McKinsey and Co., a global consulting firm alleged to have contributed to the opioid crisis by promoting marketing schemes to opioid manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma.
Iowa will receive $4.7 million over the next five years from the settlement with McKinsey, which totaled to $573 million.
Miller has been actively involved in several settlements with drug manufacturers and distributors reached in recent months, including a $26 billion agreement with three major opioid distributors, Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen. Iowa will receive about $170 million over the next 18 years from this agreement, Miller said.
Iowa also will benefit from the settlement with Purdue Pharma that will require the company’s owners, the Sackler family, to pay $4.3 billion toward addiction prevention, treatment and recovery efforts nationwide. Miller said that litigation still is being settled in bankruptcy court.
Miller previously told The Gazette he anticipates Iowa will begin receiving $15 million to $20 million in initial payments sometime in 2022.
Treatment and recovery efforts established using these settlement funds will be sustainable long-term and will disproportionately, population-wise, be focused on health care providers who practice in rural parts of the state, Miller said Wednesday.
“We’re very conscious of having a set of programs that cover the whole state,” he said.
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