Gov. Chris Christie in talks with HHS, DOJ to loosen HIPAA in cases of opioid overdose

When President Donald Trump's special opioid commission issues its interim report in a few weeks, it will likely include a proposal for a workaround to federal patient privacy law in cases involving opioid overdoses, according to a report from nj.com.

Here are three things to know.

1. Following a speech Monday at Morristown (N.J.) Medical Center, Governor Chris Christie, R-N.J., told reporters at he's in talks with lawyers from the Department of Justice and HHS Secretary Tom Price, MD, about possible changes to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, according to nj.com. Under HIPAA, physicians are not permitted to disclose whether a patient has experienced a drug overdose to the patient's parents or spouse.

2. In New Jersey alone, the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan has been deployed 25,000 times since 2014, the governor said. Mr. Christie believes loosening HIPAA would help individuals with substance use disorders seek treatment.

"There's gotta be a way that we can let parents and loved ones know when people have been reversed with Narcan," Mr. Christie said on Monday, according to the report. "Overdose is often a cry for help, whether it's intended to be that or not ... We've got to find a way around [HIPAA's restrictions]."

3. Arthur Caplan, PhD, director of the division of medical ethics at NYU Medical School in New York City, expressed concern over a potential HIPAA workaround. Dr. Kaplan — who favors protecting patient privacy — said it would be best to make disclosures to providers, rather than family members, as they are better equipped to usher the patient toward treatment, according to the report.

"I still believe it's important to leave the disclosure to the individual, but there may be a case to be made for doctors or public health authorities to be informed," Dr. Caplan told nj.com. "The moral basis on giving up on privacy is that you can provide an intervention. The goal here isn't who knows, it's who's going to help the patient."

More articles on opioids: 
Opioid addiction treatment varies by state: 7 things to know 
Heroin use costs US more than $50B, study suggests 
NYC family physician arrested for prescribing 2.2M oxycodone pills

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