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Increased Powers for FDA to Fight Opioid Crisis May Be Coming

March 27, 2018

The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor & Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced two draft bills designed to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) more authority to address the opioid crisis.

The first draft bill allows the FDA to require drug companies to provide unit dose packaging to make it easier for physicians to write prescriptions for smaller amounts of opioids. The goal is to prevent overprescribing and diversion of unused medicine. This policy reinforces Pennsylvania’s effort to limit opioid prescribing to up to a seven-day supply for patients presenting at hospital emergency rooms to reduce “doctor shopping” for additional opioid prescriptions. The Alexander legislation also would provide patients with safe disposal packaging to make disposal of unused doses easier and safer.

The second draft bill would ensure the FDA can spend the $94 million included in the recently passed omnibus budget bill to upgrade detection technology, laboratory capacity, and import facilities. The intent of the bill is to better identify illegal drugs, including synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, at the border. The bill provides for coordination between the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the FDA Commissioner, and the Secretary, Homeland Security, to strengthen customs and border protection in response to illegal substances and drug imports.

These draft bills work in tandem with other efforts the U.S. House and Senate leaders and the Trump Administration have taken to address the opioid epidemic. A hearing on Senator Alexander’s draft bills is expected the week of April 9, when Congress returns from recess.

As overdose deaths in Pennsylvania continue to exceed the national average, HAP continues to advocate for funding for physical and behavioral health treatment to help overdose patients access the recovery resources they need. HAP will monitor the progress of the legislative and administrative efforts and provide updates.

For more information about the hospital community’s efforts to address the opioid crisis, contact Michael Consuelos, M.D., senior vice president, clinical integration. For more information about federal advocacy related to opioid issues, contact Timothy Ohrum, vice president of grassroots advocacy.

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