Politicians and medical experts talk opioid crisis at Penn

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Three high profile politicians, former Vice-President Joe Biden, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney joined two medical experts at a University of Pennsylvania sponsored forum about the Opioid crisis.

It was a wide-ranging 90-minute discussion about what has been called the worst drug crisis in American history.

The former Vice President told the audience in Irvine Auditorium that more Americans die of opioid overdoses each year than American soldiers died in the entire Vietnam War.

The group talked about how pain killers developed in the 1990s were oversold as safe and over-prescribed by doctors.

Dr. Jeanmarie Perrone with the University of Pennsylvania said drug companies perpetuated the idea their opioids were safe when they were not.

She also spoke about efforts known as Medication Assisted Treatment the use of opioids like methadone and Suboxone to treat patients who are already addicted to more dangerous opioids like heroin. She disagrees she said with those who think it is trading one addiction with another. She said that is not true. The treatment can help stabilize many patients allowing them to return to work and have a better life.

Opioid overdose deaths in the United States have more than doubled in ten years.

In 2007 there were 18,515 deaths reported by the Federal Government's National Institute on Drug Abuse. In the most recent year reported 2017, that number had soared to 47,500.

According to the CDC everyday, more than 1,000 people are treated in emergency rooms for misusing prescription opioids.
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