Congress Focusing on Opioids
This week House and Senate committees focused on opioid legislation packages. The Senate health committee voted unanimously in favor of a package, which includes 40 bills from 38 senators. The health committee's legislation, Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018, includes provisions that would grant FDA additional authorities regarding opioid manufacturing, packaging and disposal. It also would provide FDA with more authority and resources in international mail facilities to ramp up its surveillance of imported illicit opioids and other synthetic substances.
Also, this week the House Energy & Commerce (E&C) health subcommittee passed 57 bills to combat the opioid crisis. The E&C's health subcommittee has held three legislative hearings examining more than 60 bills intended to address the opioid crisis. The bills address a variety of topics including the addition of pain assessment as part of the “Welcome to Medicare” initial examination, creating a demonstration project for an Alternative Payment Model for treating substance use disorder including the development of measures to evaluate the quality and outcomes of treatment. Other bills will have the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) evaluate the utilization of telehealth services in treating opioid use disorder and require prescription drug plans under Medicare Part D to include information on the adverse effects of opioid overutilization and of coverage of non-pharmacological therapies and non-opioid medications or devices used to treat pain.
Included in the bills passed by the E&C committee was H.R. 3528, The Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act. The bill would require e-prescribing for coverage of prescription drugs that are controlled substance under Medicare Part D. When the bill was initially brought to the committee it did not include exclusions for skilled nursing facility (SNF) residents. The Society, along with other long-term care organizations, wrote letters to the committee urging them to include exceptions for hospice and SNF residents. Those exclusions were added during this week’s mark-up and the bill passed as amended. The companion bill (S. 2460) already included those exemptions and is currently in the Senate Finance committee. Senate leaders hope to merge all the opioid packages, so they can bring one package to the floor by this summer.