Report: Costs of opioid crisis have been underestimated
- A new report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) says the cost of the opioid crisis in 2015 totaled $504 billion (2.8% of GDP), with more than 33,000 Americans having died of an opioid-related drug overdose.
- CEA plans to publish future analysis of actual and proposed demand and supply-side interventions, ways Medicare and Medicaid can affect the opioid crisis and how medical innovation can help cobat it.
- President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in October, but critics say a national emergency designation is needed to enable more funds to be made available to fight the crisis.
CEA asserts previous cost estimates of the opioid crisis greatly underestimate losses from overdose fatalities, instead focusing mainly on healthcare costs.
“While these estimates are informative about certain types of costs, they are only a partial account of the damage imposed by the opioid epidemic. The crisis has worsened in recent years, with an increasing role played by heroin abuse, and evidence suggests that fatality statistics understate the number of opioid-related deaths,” the CEA report states.
The CEA report varies from previous estimates by adjusting for a recent study that found opioid-related deaths in 2014 were 24% higher than officially reported, and by quantifying the value of a statistical life to measure the costs of opioid-related deaths. The report found the opioid crisis cost $431.7 billion in fatality costs and $72.7 billion in non-fatality costs.
The CEA report comes days after an Altarum report estimated the societal costs of the opioid epidemic were more than $95 billion in 2016. The Altarum study used lost future earnings to measure loss from opioid-related deaths, instead of using the value of a statistical life basis that CEA used.
“[T]he implicit value of lives lost are not included in this analysis separately from future lost productivity. These negative impacts would only add to the estimated economic burden reported here and are by no means less significant than those we quantify,” the Altarum study states.
In its 2017 recommendations, the White House Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis offered a number of suggestions on ways to address the epidemic. The chairman of the commission, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, wrote that more federal funding “will literally save lives,” but did not identify specific sources of funding to do so.
The Senate health committee is set to hold its second in a series of hearings on the opioid crisis on Thursday to hear from states, communities and providers on what, if any, new authorities they need from the federal government to more effectively fight the opioid crisis.
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