Bill Proposes National Tracking System for Drug Overdoses

| 21 August 2012

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would be tasked with compiling, analyzing and publishing data on drug overdoses if a new piece of proposed legislation is signed into law.

The bill, the Stop Overdose Stat Act (S.O.S. Act), is more broadly intended to reduce the number of drug overdoses occurring in the US. The bill notes more than 36,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2008, with approximately three-in-four of these deaths resulting from an avoidable, unintentional overdose.

Despite drug overdoses rising an estimated 800% between 1980 and 2008, "No federal agency has been tasked with stemming this crisis," note the authors of the bill.

The S.O.S. Act would change this by charging CDC with establishing a Sentinel Surveillance System, which the bill explains would collect data from all county, state, tribal, federal, and private sources available to it. The data would then be combined and published in an online database, where each death would be associated with a particular drug or drugs, the basic details of the patient-age, race and gender-and the location of the overdose.

The CDC would also be charged with distributing grants to states and local governments to boost their ability to track and report such data. A cornerstone component of this approach would rely on increasing the capacity of coroners to conduct toxicological screenings on deceased patients.

Potential to Affect Opioids?

Of particular concern to the bill's authors are opioid medications, which they note are,"Involved in more than 40% of all drug poisoning deaths." The bill could greatly impact the opioid class of medications, which have recently been subject of greater restrictions by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Because overdoses are not always likely to occur within a medical setting, they may be under-reported to FDA, which tracks adverse events in patients.

Though FDA's Form 3500 for adverse event reporting is a great deal more comprehensive than what is called for by CDC, they do track some of the same data, such as when the event occurred, the outcome of the patient, the basic details of the patient, the drug and dosage and the locations and circumstances of the event. Such a reporting system could ultimately be used by FDA as additional evidence to either identify drug safety signals or support additional restrictions on approved medications.

The S.O.S. Act is sponsored by Rep Donna Edwards (D-MD) and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 27 other representatives.


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