Our country is currently in the midst of an opioid epidemic.  Tens of thousands of Americans are addicted to prescription painkillers, and 44 people every day are killed by this dangerous addiction.  These drugs are a bigger killer each year than even motor vehicle crashes, yet so far we’ve done little to prevent this substance abuse.  This week however, things are beginning to change.

Earlier this week the Obama administration announced plans to ask Congress to spend an additional $1.1 billion to address the issue, half of which would be used to expand treatment facilities.  The other half would go to programs aimed at preventing opioid overdoses, improving access to Naloxone, and cracking down on illegal sales.

As part of this broader government effort, the Food and Drug Administration also announced several measures aimed at dealing with opioid abuse.  Dr. Robert Califf, the acting commissioner at the agency, announced the measures saying that “it has reached a point where we felt we had to step back and take a careful look at everything and see what we could do.  We thought we could do more.”

These measures include strengthening requirement to study a drug after it has come to market, increasing access to training on pain management for doctors and prescribers, and convening an expert panel before approving some certain new opioids.

Still, according to Senator Edward Markey, these measures “fall short of what is needed.”  Congress is also unlikely to approve most of the president’s budget requests.  Even so, these requests and measures are steps in the right direction in the fight against a battle that has been raging for far too long.