Legislation is forthcoming that will hopefully have an effect on prescription abuse rates across the country, according to speakers at the four National Rx Drug Abuse Summit held this week in Atlanta.
Representatives from both the U.S. House and Senate addressed the nearly 1,400 attendees of the meeting and announced four pieces of legislation that they are either currently sponsoring or intend to introduce related to prescription drug abuse including:
- Rx Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act – This act funds a grant program for states and nonprofit entities for consumer education about opioid abuse, including methadone abuse, and sets forth training requirements for practitioners.
- FDA Accountability for Public Safety Act – This act would ensure that “expert voices are heard” on any review of opioid medications and make the FDA commissioner more responsible to Congress for new-drug approvals. This bill is in reaction to the recent approval of Zohodro despite overwhelming opposition by an FDA advisory panel.
- Protecting Our Infants Act – This act would take proactive steps to deal with opiate dependency in newborns.
- A yet-to-be-named act that would break down regulatory hurdles and licensing barriers for new programs and new methods of care for treating addiction.
“This is an American issue,” U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia said at the meeting. “When you see Democrats and Republicans come together on an issue like this, I think that should give you some hope.”
Effective policy change is not always easy, but not impossible, to achieve, Manchin said, noting the FDA’s decision to reschedule hydrocodone combination drugs in 2014.
U.S. Representative Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-5th) touched on two related priorities: implementation of mandatory prescriber education and continuing to improve state-run prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs).
“We still have a long way to go, but in the next few years PDMPs should absolutely become a part of the standard of care for anyone prescribing a prescription painkiller,” Rogers said.
As the only pharmacist in Congress, U.S. Representative Earl “Buddy” Carter (GA-1st), said he wants to see PDMPs across the country be able to share information in real time and work seamlessly across state borders.
“We have to stop the mentality of ‘opiates first’,”said U.S. Representative William R. “Bill” Keating (MA-9th). “We understand there is a need to deal with pain … (but) doctor, you don’t understand about pain. When you lose (a family member) that kind of pain doesn’t go away.”
U.S. Representative Katherine Clark (MA-5th) focused her remarks on the need to address Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome – a condition where babies are born with an opiate dependence from their mothers’ drug addiction.
“We have to do better by these children. We have to do better by their moms,” Clark said. “We are looking at two people, not just one.”
U.S. Representative Andrew Harris (MD-1st) said he was concerned about the “incrementalism of marijuana legislation,” especially when there are no safeguards in place to protect children.
“That’s not the way we should deal with such a dangerous drug,” Harris said, adding “marijuana is pretty clearly a gateway drug” that has not been shown to be safe or medically effective. He urged more research on marijuana and its components – “just like we do for other drugs.”
Many of the legislators praised the fact that the FDA has finalized its guidance on abuse-deterrent medications.
1. Various speakers. General Session: Forum of Members of the U.S. Congress. Presented at: National Drug Abuse Rx Summit. April 8, 2015, Atlanta.