Standardized Data Collection and the Opioid Epidemic: A Call to Action

data on computer screen

As 2020 came to an end, the American Medical Association (AMA) collaborated with Manatt Health to release its updated National Roadmap on State-Level Efforts to End the Nation’s Drug Overdose Epidemic. The roadmap offers best practices and needed next steps to improve access to patient care and prevent deaths from overdoses. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has further heightened the challenges with opioid addiction and overdose. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 81,000 overdose deaths occurred in the US in the period between May 2019 and May 2020 –  the highest number ever recorded in a 12 month timeframe.

While more attention and funding has been paid to increasing access to prevention and treatment services, it is difficult to track what is working and where improvements are needed. According to the AMA roadmap, while all 50 states require health department case reporting, the policies are not consistent in terms of the timeliness and depth of what is reported when it comes to drug overdoses and adverse drug reactions. Deidentified data sets that provide insight on how social determinants of health and insurance status impact access to, and utilization of, services are also important. 

In an effort to help address these data challenges, CDC’s Overdose Data to Action is awarding funding to state and local health departments to help them “obtain high quality, more comprehensive, and timelier data on overdose morbidity and mortality.” Monitoring and surveillance approaches are also a key area of the opioid management framework for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. A real-time data collection system launched in Michigan in 2019 showed a rise in opioid overdose deaths as the pandemic impacted the state. This dashboard, or System for Opioid Overdose Surveillance, offers robust data for state and local health officials, first responders, and policy makers and is considered to be the first system in the US to include “real-time naloxone administration and suspected overdose death data.”

As communities continue to struggle through the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be essential to better keep track of other public health issues, such as opioid use, in real-time so that resources and services reach those most in need. The AMA roadmap also identifies other areas to address in order to reduce overdose deaths, including improving access to evidence-based treatment for opioid-use disorder, making sure that mental health and substance use disorders have fair and equal coverage on insurance plans, and increasing access to and awareness of non-opioid pain management options. We will continue to highlight these and other strategies in future blogs. 

About the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP)
The Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP), a non-profit organization founded in 2011 by the White House, represents the technology sector and commerce intermediaries including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Oath, UPS, PayPal, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, and .Health. CSIP’s mission is to promote industry best practices as it relates to illegal online pharmacies, and educating consumers about safe purchasing of prescription drugs.