From Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine:

Can State Laws Really Reduce Opioid Deaths?

KPSOM student’s research project examines effectiveness of legislation prescribing anti-overdose medication

May 27, 2022

KPSOM student Michael Hanna.

KPSOM student Michael Hanna.

About 2,000 Californians die from opioid overdoses every year. In 2019, state lawmakers enacted legislation aimed at curbing the ongoing opioid crisis and reducing the number of deaths. Among these new laws were regulations designed to increase access to naloxone, an FDA-approved medication that can rapidly reverse and block the effects of an overdose of opioids such as heroin, morphine, and oxycodone.

These laws, however, may not have the intended effect, according to a study conducted by KPSOM student Michael Hanna, along with his mentors, Dr. Ali Ghobadi, Assistant Professor of Clinical Science, and Dr. Adam Sharp, Assistant Professor of Health Systems Science and Clinical Science, and a team of other researchers.

“I was personally surprised to find that, while this policy was intended to decrease the rate of death associated with opioid overdose via naloxone prescription, it ultimately failed in doing so,” Hanna said. “While naloxone prescribing increased, it was not sufficient. It is likely that no significant reduction in opioid overdose affiliated mortality will [occur] until multicomponent rehabilitation resources are provided to the general public.”

Hanna presented the study, titled “Impact of California’s Naloxone Co-Prescription Law on Emergency Department Visits, 30-Day Mortality, and Prescription Patterns,” during the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM) Western Regional Conference at Stanford University on April 2, and again at the SAEM National Conference in New Orleans on May 13.

The findings were based on data and statistics compiled from Kaiser Permanente records and analyzed by a comprehensive team of professionals, including medical and non-medical experts on the topic of opioid addiction. The authors plan to submit the study for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Hanna credited his mentors and study co-authors with facilitating the process. “I had always had an interest in working with underserved populations, particularly those who are unhoused and those who are experiencing substance use disorders,” he said. “I was lucky enough to be paired with some incredible mentors who were working with these topics, and they allowed me to join them on this particular project. I hope to continue working with these populations throughout my future career, although I'm still exploring my options as to how I can be involved.”