Advocacy director: 'No silver bullet' to solving opioid crisis

Advocate Courtney Hunter said Thursday there is no one solution to ending the opioid crisis, and that a multi-pronged approach is needed to tackle the growing epidemic.

“There’s no silver bullet to solving this crisis,” Hunter, director of advocacy and government affairs at the nonprofit agency Center of Addiction, told Hill.TV. “We need a comprehensive approach."

Hunter spoke on Hill.TV's “Rising” to discuss the official launch of Voices for Non-Opioid Choices, a nonpartisan coalition of organizations, including the Center of Addiction, dedicated to preventing opioid addiction and increasing access to non-opioid alternatives to pain management.

“Non-opioid alternatives are one of those tools in the toolbox,” Hunter said, adding that there needs to be more funding for treatment and raising awareness about other ways to manage acute pain.

The coalition estimates that roughly 3 million Americans become persistent opioid users after surgery, and patients on average receive 82 opioid pills to manage their pain, whether they need them or not.

Opioid addiction is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. More than 70,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The launch of Non-Opioid Choices follows a round of lawsuits against big pharmaceutical companies.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) this week filed a lawsuit against OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma, alleging the drugmaker has fueled the opioid epidemic by misrepresenting its opioid products as nonaddictive.

“There is nothing natural about this epidemic—it was manufactured in part by Purdue Pharma, as the company deceptively marketed OxyContin despite knowing the risk of addiction,” the lawsuit states.

A Purdue spokesperson dismissed the claim in a statement to The Hill, calling the lawsuit "part of a continuing effort to try these cases in the court of public opinion rather than the justice system."

An estimated 26,3000 people between 1999 and 2017, and died from opioids in Pennsylvania alone, according to the lawsuit.

—Tess Bonn