Naloxone is Band-Aid, not cure

New research indicates naloxone has been a huge life-saver for opioid overdose victims, but doctors say 1 in 10 of those rescued by the drug overdosed again within a year and died.

Dr. Scott Weiner, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and the lead author of the research study, analyzed 12,192 dosages of naloxone issued between July 1, 2013, and Dec. 31, 2015. He found 93.5 percent of those treated with naloxone survived their overdose, and 84.3 percent of the survivors were still alive a year later.

That good news was tempered by the reality that 15.7 percent of those treated and saved by naloxone were dead a year later. Ten percent died of overdoses, a good chunk of them on the same day they were initially treated with naloxone.

Weiner said naloxone is very effective at reversing opioid overdoses, but it doesn’t treat the underlying causes of addiction. “Naloxone is just a Band-Aid. It’s not the cure,” he said, calling on hospitals to do a better job of getting overdose survivors on medication and into treatment programs.

Dr. Sarah Wakeman, director of the Substance Abuse Disorders Initiative at Massachusetts General Hospital, said evidence shows overdose survivors who start taking the addiction treatment drugs methadone or buprenorphine are half as likely to die as those who do not receive the medications. But she said only 5 percent of overdose survivors receive the medications.

Edward M. Murphy, writing in CommonWealth, said using drugs to treat those hooked on drugs is controversial but has a far higher rate of success than non-medical treatment programs. “Doing more of something that’s not working well will not correct the problem,” he wrote.

A Berkshire Eagle editorial said policymakers need to get on the same page. “Naloxone gives people a second chance and its use should be encouraged. It is not, however, a solution to the opioid epidemic, and finding that solution requires a concerted federal effort to go with a state and local one. That is yet to happen.”

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

The Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts raised a last-minute objection to the bump-stock ban, which is currently in a conference committee resolving differences between House and Senate bills. Bump stocks are devices used to turn firearms into automatic weapons. The objection is that the ban is too vague, and could be construed to apply to lubrication of gun parts. (Salem News)

House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg suggest there is nothing unique about the State House that would make sexual harassment more common there than in other settings. (State House News) Both said they have dealt with sexual harassment allegations involving their respective chambers, but neither offered much in the way of detail, including whether any cases involved lawmakers. (Boston Herald)

Attorney General Maura Healey sides with those who want to block the Berkshire Museum from selling off some of its artwork, including paintings by Norman Rockwell. (Berkshire Eagle}

Lawmakers appear to have put in for per diem payments for days they weren’t at the State House. (Fox 25)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The cost to renovate the Victory Theatre in Holyoke hits $43 million, the owner told city councilors. (MassLive)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The first charges drop in the investigation by special prosecutor Robert Mueller, as former Trump campaign manager Robert Manafort and sidekick Rick Gates are indicted on money laundering charges and it’s revealed that Trump foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos pled guilty earlier this month to charges of lying to the FBI and is now a  cooperating witness in Mueller’s probe. (New York Times) Joe Battenfeld says Mueller is on a big fishing expedition at taxpayers’ expense. (Boston Herald) Adriana Cohen says the Manafort and Gates charges are “all sizzle, no steak” when it comes to showing any collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia, but she denounces all the “fake news” surrounding the probe without any mention of Papadopoulos. (Boston Herald) Joan Vennochi takes a wait-and-see posture, concluding it was “a bad day for Manafort. It can get even worse for him and for Trump.” (Boston Globe)

A federal judge in Washington barred the Trump administration from moving ahead with its plan to exclude transgender people from military service. (Associated Press)

A military judge said he will consider a lighter sentence for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured and held by the Taliban for five years after deserting his post in 2009, because of comments by President Trump that made a fair trial impossible. (New York Times)

In character: Ty Burr calls actor Kevin Spacey’s handling of charges that he once attempted to molest a 14-year-old boy by suddenly revealing that he is a gay a sinister deflection worthy of Frank Underwood, the nefarious pol he plays on House of Cards. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who announced last week he would not run for reelection during a scorching rebuke of President Trump on the Senate floor, is considering a run as an independent and has given the okay to an outside group to conduct polling about his chances. (U.S. News & World Report)

Fifty Worcester community leaders circulate a petition calling on candidates in municipal elections to refrain from personal attacks and condemn those who do. (Telegram & Gazette)

The final debate between Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter and his 26-year-old challenger Jimmy Pereira was canceled after Pereira inexplicably pulled out and tried to arrange an alternative debate at a Marshfield radio station. (The Enterprise)

The Globe drops in on Lawrence and the comeback attempt of former mayor William Lantigua.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

President Trump is expected to tap Jerome Powell, a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and a longtime Wall Street executive, as the central bank’s next chairman to succeed Janet Yellen, whose term expires in February. (Wall Street Journal)

Two months after Hurricane Harvey decimated Houston, nonprofits are still waiting on $76 million pledged by businesses, foundations, and individuals. (Houston Chronicle)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Open enrollment for the state’s Health Connector starts tomorrow, and consumers will face an uncertain climate and, for some, markedly higher premium costs after the White House cut payments to insurers to help subsidize some plans. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board puts off a decision about an all-night bus service pilot, saying the $22 per passenger cost is too high. (CommonWealth)

The MBTA is having trouble keeping its budget in balance because of dipping ridership revenue and cost overruns at its paratransit service. (CommonWealth) Yet the pressure to increase spending keeps growing, with T officials saying the Blue Line deserves more investment whether Amazon comes to Suffolk Downs or not. (CommonWealth)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surged in 2016 to its highest level in 800,000 years. (Time)

A sewage treatment plant in North Andover lost power during the storm and dumped 8 million gallons of raw sewage into the Merrimack River. (Eagle-Tribune) Most schools in the Merrimack Valley will be closed Tuesday. (Eagle-Tribune) Lowell also was hard hit. (Lowell Sun) Gov. Charlie Baker says it could take “several days” before power is restored to everyone. (Patriot Ledger)

The Legislature is once again considering a proposal to reduce plastic bag use by banning single-use bags statewide and requiring a 10-cent charge for paper or reusable plastic bags. (Standard-Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

US Rep. Katherine Clark applauds the Boston Uncornered program at College Bound Dorchester that creates a path out of gang life and into school for young people. (Boston Herald) CommonWealth profiled the innovative program and other efforts to turnaround lives of gang members in the new fall issue of the magazine.

A former secretary at Cohasset High School has been charged with stealing a student’s prescription medicine from a locked nurse’s cabinet and replacing it with an over-the-counter antihistamine. (Patriot Ledger)