Se­nate panel gears up to de­bate opi­oid leg­is­la­tion

Modern Healthcare - - The Week Ahead - —Su­san­nah Luthi

The Se­nate Health, Ed­u­ca­tion, La­bor and Pen­sions Com­mit­tee will de­bate leg­is­la­tion April 24 as Congress ped­als to­ward the Me­mo­rial Day deadline to com­plete its opi­oids pack­age.

HELP Com­mit­tee Chair La­mar Alexan­der (R-Tenn.) said he sees a pro­posal to support the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health work on non­ad­dic­tive painkillers as the “holy grail” for solv­ing the epidemic.

“De­vel­op­ing new, non-ad­dic­tive ways to treat is cru­cial to help­ing pre­vent peo­ple from be­com­ing ad­dicted to opi­oids while en­sur­ing those who need re­lief have ac­cess to it,” Alexan­der said fol­low­ing a hear­ing last week.

The HELP leg­is­la­tion—the Opi­oid Cri­sis Re­sponse Act—would also al­low the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion to di­rect drug man­u­fac­tur­ers to pack­age opi­oids for a spe­cific time frame, for in­stance three or seven days. It would also support data-col­lec­tion ef­forts at the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion to as­sess and re­spond to infection rates from drug in­jec­tion.

Sev­eral bun­dles of bills also aimed at curb­ing the opi­oid epidemic have been de­bated in the House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee, where law­mak­ers were more con­tentious than their coun­ter­parts in the up­per cham­ber.

Last week’s En­ergy and Com­merce hear­ing alone looked at 34 bills. “A lot needs to be done to ad­dress this epidemic, but we should fo­cus our time on what is most mean­ing­ful and im­pact­ful,” said Rep. Frank Pal­lone (D-N.J.), the com­mit­tee’s rank­ing Demo­crat. “While I support ad­dress­ing this cri­sis through a bi­par­ti­san process, I am con­cerned that the sheer quan­tity of bills be­fore the com­mit­tee to­day and the chair­man’s ex­tremely am­bi­tious time frame will not leave us much time to get these poli­cies right.”

Pal­lone also de­cried the lack of a Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice score for the bills un­der con­sid­er­a­tion, which in­clude a par­tial re­peal on be­half of sub­stance use dis­or­der pa­tients of what’s known as the “IMD ex­clu­sion”— the bar­ring of Med­i­caid funds from men­tal health in­sti­tu­tions that have more than 16 beds; pro­gram in­tegrity trans­parency mea­sures for Medi­care parts C and D; en­hanced federal fund­ing for cer­tain Med­i­caid health homes for ad­dicts; and a man­date on states to run drug man­age­ment pro­grams for peo­ple iden­ti­fied as at-risk for ad­dic­tion.

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