How Policy Gaps Fail People Who Inject Drugs and Contract Endocarditis

surgeons operating

Recent media reports suggest that healthcare providers around the country are grappling with how to respond to rising rates of endocarditis, a life-threatening infection caused by bacteria that enter the bloodstream and settle in the heart, linked to people who inject drugs. Reports in the New York Times and NPR describe the dilemma faced by physicians called on to perform repeat costly heart surgeries on patients who were re-infected with endocarditis as a result of ongoing illicit drug use.

In a blog published in Health Affairs, a team of researchers from the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and Management make the case that failures of policy contribute to creating these scenarios. 

In Withholding Surgery For Endocarditis: How Three Gaps In Policy Fail People Who Inject Drugs, Naomi Seiler, Katie Horton, and Anya Vanecek argue that expanding Medicaid and increasing support for needle exchange programs and evidence-based substance use treatment programs would help reduce turn the tide on endocarditis and other serious effects of substance use disorder.