ADEA Washington Update

Opioid Hearings and Legislation Continue

(House, Senate, Opioid Abuse, Prescription Drug Abuse) Permanent link   All Posts

Both the House and Senate continue their focus on the opioid epidemic, with more congressional hearings and several pieces of legislation. On April 25, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health hosted a nine-hour markup of 63 bills, all designed to address the opioid crisis. The subcommittee advanced a total of 56 bills, and the votes were largely bipartisan. The mostly modest proposals approved by the subcommittee so far focus on expanding access to substance abuse treatment, building up the provider workforce and encouraging the use of nonopioid pain treatments. Some more contentious provisions include additional state requirements to target and monitor pharmacy coverage for at-risk persons and add federal resources for hiring state Medicaid officials. Votes were also required for provisions calling for drug utilization reviews and reporting on graduate medical education programs, plus incentives for postsurgical injections as a pain treatment alternative. An adopted amendment also seeks to spur FDA approval of nonaddictive pain treatments. The measures were advanced to the full committee for final markup, which is likely to happen in the next few weeks.

On April 24, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously passed the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. The HELP committee approved a handful of amendments by voice vote, including a measure to help medical schools train more physicians to provide medication-assisted treatment. The committee, voting along party lines, rejected a proposal to boost funding for the National Health Service Corps offered by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to build up the behavioral care workforce in underserved areas. Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said the measure would cost $2.4 billion and was not necessary at this time. Chairman Alexander said he hopes the Senate can move the opioid legislation by this summer, noting that several other senate committees—Finance, Judiciary and Homeland Security—will likely want to contribute to the effort as well.

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