Understanding the Opioid Epidemic with Dan Ciccarone


The opioid epidemic is the greatest public health crisis of our time. It is estimated that about 64,000 people died of opioid overdoses in 2016 – more than died in the Vietnam war or in 1 year at the height of the AIDs epidemic. Dan Ciccarone, our guest this week, and a Professor at UCSF School of Medicine, has spent his career trying to improve our understanding of substance use disorders and their health consequences. He and his collaborators look at this question both up-close, through ethnographic research in the community, and hours and hours of interviews with people who use injection drugs, and also by stepping back and sifting through huge datasets, looking at the larger epidemiologic and economic forces shaping the epidemic. He has spent years studying heroin specifically, and is currently the PI of the Heroin in Transitions study, which continues this vital work.

We talk specifically about a study led by one of his collaborators, Dr. Sarah Mars, “Every ‘Never’ I Ever Said Came True”: Transitions from opioid pills to heroin injecting; his group’s study of trends in hospitalizations and what that tells us about the epidemic in a 2013 Plos One publication, Intertwined Epidemics: National Demographic Trends in Hospitalizations for Heroin- and Opioid-Related Overdoses, 1993–2009. We also discuss his recent look at some of the larger factors influencing the epidemic with collaborators Nabarun Dasgupta and Leo Belitsky in Opioid Crisis: No Easy Fix to Its Social and Economic Determinants.

You can find more information about the book Dr. Ciccarone mentioned, Dreamland by Sam Quinones, here. And you can find the American Society for Addiction Medicine’s waiver training here.

If you enjoyed the show, please give us 5 stars wherever you listen. Tweet us your thoughts @RoSpodcast and leave us a message on our facebook page at www.facebook.com/reviewofsystems. Or, you can email me at audreyATrospod.org. We’d love to hear from you, and thanks for listening.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity. Photo courtesy of Dr. Ciccarone.

Journal Club: Lightning Round! Primary care vs Specialty care, Doorknob moments & Cost effectiveness of buprenorphine initiation in the ED


This week Thomas Kim, David Rosenthal, and Audrey Provenzano talk about three recently published manuscripts for a lightning round edition of Journal Club. Thomas shares a paper by Bynum et al, Outcomes in Older Adults with Multimorbidity Associated with Predominant Provider of Care Specialty, examining outcomes among patients primarily cared for by specialists vs primary care providers. David shares a paper describing a novel technology for agenda setting and evaluation of social determinants of health by Wittink et al, entitled Patient priorities and the doorknob phenomenon in primary care: Can technology improve disclosure of patient stressors? (H/T Primary Care Progress for tweeting it!). Lastly, Audrey shares a paper entitled Cost effectiveness of emergency department initiated treatment for opioid dependence by Susan Busch et al, which is a cost-effectiveness analysis of an RCT of ED-initiated buprenorphine performed at Yale, previously featured on the podcast in an interview with Gail D’Onofrio

If you enjoy the show, please give us 5 stars wherever you listen. Tweet us your thoughts @RoSpodcast and leave us a message on our facebook page at www.facebook.com/reviewofsystems. Or, you can email me at audrey@rospod.org. We’d love to hear from you, and thanks for listening.

Journal Club – Association Between Process Measures & Mortality in Individuals with Opioid Use Disorders


This week, we are discussing a recent article from the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, entitled: Association between process measures and mortality in individuals with opioid use disorders, by Katherine Watkins and colleagues: Susan Paddock, Teresa Hudson, Songthip Ounpraseuth, Amy Schrader, Kimberly Hepner, and Bradley Stein. We are also joined by a guest discussant, Gabriel Wishik. Gabriel Wishik is a clinician educator in general and addiction medicine, and is an instructor at Boston University and Boston Medical Center. He is the clinic medical director at Boston’s Healthcare for the Homeless Program’s largest clinical site and practices harm reduction in primary care with a population at the front lines of the current opioid epidemic. You can find the obituary we shared on the show here.

If you like the show, please rate and review us on itunes, google play, stitcher or your favorite podcasting app, which makes the show easier for others to find; and share us on social media. We tweet at @RoSpodcastand are on facebook at www.facebook.com/reviewofsystems.  Please drop us a line at contact@rospod.org. We’d love to hear from you.

Listen at the end of the episode for a promo code to receive 15% off registration fees for an upcoming conference from the Harvard Center for Primary Care: Primary Care in 2020 – Future Challenges, Tips for Today.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Gail D’Onofrio, Initiation of Suboxone Treatment for Opiate Use Disorder in the ED


This week we are again looking at the opioid crisis, but this time from the perspective of an emergency room physician. Gail D’Onofrio, MD, MS is Physician-in Chief of Emergency Services at Yale-New Haven Hospital; she and her colleagues published a randomized controlled trial in JAMA in April 2015 looking at an intervention initiating suboxone treatment for patients with substance use disorders in the ED.  Gail is Professor and Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Yale University and is internationally known for her work in substance use disorders, women’s cardiovascular health, and mentoring physician scientists in research careers, and she is a founding board member of the American Board of Addiction Medicine.

We talk about her perspective on the opioid epidemic as an ED physician; her RCT; how people could set up a similar program in their local ED and community; and her thoughts on ED utilization for primary care complaints, which is the subject of a recently issued report from the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission.

Please rate and review us on iTunes or Stitcher and share us on social media. Tweet us your thoughts @RoSpodcast and check out our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/reviewofsystems. Or, you can email us at contact@rospod.org. We’d love to hear from you.

Harold Pollack – ACA and AHCA Update


This week we are joined a few days early by Harold Pollack to bring you a timely update on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal and American Health Care Act (AHCA) legislation that is moving quickly through congress.

Harold has published widely at the interface between poverty policy and public health including the effects of health reform and the ACA. Today we talk about the current state of the repeal and replace effort in the Senate and what effects their bill would have in terms of individuals who would lose coverage or find it much more expensive should the bill pass. We also discussed the very dramatic changes the bill would likely make to Medicaid and how that might affect the poor and vulnerable people that the program serves, and in particular how it might impact the raging opiate epidemic. Lastly, we talk about what a bipartisan solution to many of the very real problems of the ACA might look like, and what impact individuals can have on policy by calling congress. You can find more information about the unusual legislative process here, and the lack of information available on the bill here. Read about the effects that changes to Medicaid might make for disabled individuals here, and listen to Matt Broaddus of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities discuss block granting and per capita caps on Medicaid here. If you would like to reach out to your Senator to talk with him or her about the legislation and how it might affect you or your patients, you can find your Senator’s contact information here.

Harold is the Helen Ross Professor at the School of Social Service Administration, an Affiliate Professor in the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division and the Department of Public Health Sciences and Co-Director of The University of Chicago Crime Lab and a committee member of the Center for Health Administration Studies (CHAS) at the University of Chicago. He tweets @haroldpollack.

If you like the show, please rate and review us on itunes or stitcher, which makes the show easier for others to find; and share us on social media. We tweet at @rospodcast and are on facebook at www.facebook.com/reviewofsystems.  Please drop us a line at contact@rospod.org. We’d love to hear from you.

Dennis Dimitri – Supervised Injection Facilities


Today we are joined by Dr. Dennis Dimitri, the immediate past-president of the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) and current chair of the society’s Task Force on Opioid Prescribing and Physician Communication, to discuss supervised injection facilities, or SIFs. A SIF is a location where individuals may use illegal drugs under the supervision of a medical professional ready to assist in case of an overdose requiring treatment.

Later this month, the MMS will vote on whether to advocate for a task force to assess the feasibility of a pilot SIF in the state of Massachusetts. If the proposal is approved, the MMS will become the first statewide physician organization in the Bay State to advocate for such a pilot program.

We discuss with Dr. Dimitri what it would mean should the MMS advocate for SIFs. We review the evidence on the effect of SIFs on rates of fatal overdoseuptake of Substance Use Disorder treatment, and rates of transmission of HIV and HCV. We talk about the ethical considerations of such a program, whether SIFs enable behaviors harmful to people’s health or they represent harm reduction, and the complex legal considerations involved with a potential pilot program.

Major events of the opioid epidemic in the last few years, such as business owners planning for the possibility of overdose in bathrooms and a recent HIV outbreak stemmed by a needle exchange program in Indiana, raise the potential benefits of SIFs. If you’re interested in reading more, check out recent guest Dr. Sarah Wakeman‘s compassionate and evidence-based case for SIFs in this recent NEJM article. You can also listen to our past episode Dr. Jessie Gaeta on the SPOT program (supportive place for observation and treatment) when she also gave her thoughts on SIFs.

Dr. Dimitri is a family physician and Vice Chair of the Department of Family Medicine at University of Massachusetts and the UMass Memorial Medical Center.

What do you think? In the face of the opioid epidemic, could pilot SIFs in the US also reduce overdose deaths as in Canada and Australia? Tweet us your thoughts at @rospodcast or leave a comment on our facebook page at www.facebook.com/reviewofsystems.  Or, drop us a line directly at contact@rospod.org. We’d love to hear from you – and thanks for listening.

Graphic from of Centers for Disease Control, Opioid Overdose.

Jessie Gaeta: SPOT – Supportive Place for Observation and Treatment


Today our guest is Jessie Gaeta, the Chief Medical Officer of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program. She is a leading advocate for supportive housing for chronically homeless individuals, and has led BHCHPs efforts in responding to the opiate use disorder and overdose crisis, which is what we discussed.

Dr. Gaeta and her colleagues found themselves confronting the reality of opiate overdose as the leading cause of death among Boston’s homeless individuals day after day on their campus. In reaction to this, Gaeta and her colleagues opened SPOT, or Supportive Place for Observation and Treatment – a space within their building where individuals can come after using to ride out a high while being monitored by a nurse for overdose, and for opiate reversal if necessary.

Photo: Jessie Gaeta, MD