The House Energy & Commerce Committee has passed a comprehensive package of bills designed to curb the nation’s opioid epidemic.
Eleven opioid-related bills passed the full committee by voice vote on April 27 and April 28. Key provisions of the legislation would:
• Create an interagency task force to review best practices for pain management and prescribing.
• Require annual updates of federal opioid-prescribing guidelines.
• Authorize grants to test coprescribing opioids with buprenorphine or naloxone.
• Limit the number of pills prescribed.
• Increase the number of patients that a qualified addiction treatment specialist could see annually.
• Require an FDA advisory committee to review any new opioid proposed without abuse-deterrent properties.
• Require a detailed assessment of currently available inpatient and outpatient treatment beds.
• Prohibit the sale dextromethorphan-containing products to minors.
The full Senate also has a package of opioid-related bills to consider. On March 17, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions moved similar legislation to the Senate floor, including bills that would increase addiction patient panels, require coprescribing, and mandate insurance coverage of addiction treatment as required by current mental health parity laws.
Earlier this year, in a near unanimous vote, the Senate passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which calls for the creation of a federal pain management best practices interagency task force. No funding was attached to the legislation, however, and companion legislation remains in committee in the House.
Although the opioid bills had bipartisan support in the Energy & Commerce Committee, rancor may yet surface. During mark-up, three amendments were defeated mostly along party lines. The amendments would have increased the number of patients each qualified provider can treat with buprenorphine to a variety of levels – one amendment called for a maximum of 250 patients while others called for as many as 300 or 500. Supporters of the amendments said higher numbers would ensure treatment for many more patients while opponents expressed concern about sacrificing quality of care for quantity.
Another defeated amendment called for a $1 billion appropriation for increased opioid treatment, echoing President Obama’s call earlier this year. Opponents painted the proposal as “fiscally irresponsible.”
At press time, the House had not scheduled consideration on the opioid bills.
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