Bipartisan Legislation to Combat Opioid Abuse Introduced in the House and Senate

Rep. Larry Bucshon, M.D. (R-Ind.), Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), Rep. Joe Kennedy, III (D-Mass.), and Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) have introduced H.R. 1725, the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting (NASPER) Reauthorization Act of 2015. H.R. 1725 will provide grant funding to states to foster the use of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) in addressing prescription drug abuse. PDMPs offer timely access to accurate prescription information, allowing a provider to screen and treat patients at risk of addiction. This legislation would require grantees to facilitate PDMP interoperability with at least one border state. The bill also encourages states to incorporate access to PDMPs into provider workflow systems, such as electronic health records (EHRs) and e-prescribing. Meanwhile, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) introduced S. 954, the FDA Accountability for Public Safety Act, which would hold the FDA accountable for opioid drugs approved by the agency. All opioid medications would be subjected to advisory committee review and recommendation before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) makes a decision on opioid approval. If the advisory committee does not approve of an opioid medication due to concern over consumer health and safety, the FDA Commissioner would be required to make the final decision regarding drug approval. The FDA would also be required to submit a report to the relevant congressional committees that includes medical and scientific evidence justifying their decision in situations in which the advisory committee’s recommendation is ignored. Distribution of the drug would be prohibited until he report is submitted to Congress.

Mental Health Companion Legislation Introduced in the House

Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) have introduced legislation to improve mental health training for teachers, first responders, and police officers, among others. The Mental Health First Aid Act (H.R. 1877) is aimed at helping the public identify, understand, and respond to mental health issues and disorders. Under the bill, mental health first aid training would teach the warning signs and risk factors for schizophrenia, major clinical depression, panic attacks, anxiety disorders, trauma, and other common mental disorders; teach crisis de-escalation techniques; and provide trainees with a five-step action plan to help individuals in psychiatric crisis connect to professional mental health care. H.R. 1877 parallels the Senate bill S. 711, introduced by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

IMS Report on Drug Spending

Spending on prescription pharmaceuticals rose 13.1 percent in 2014, reaching a record high of $374 billion for 4.3 billion prescriptions filled, according to new research released by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics last week. The report attributes the increase to the 43 new drugs approved by the FDA last year. $11.3 billion was spent on four new hepatitis C drugs alone. The report also tracked the impact of the ACA on health service usage. Medicaid patients in states which their programs filled 25.4 percent more prescriptions than before expansion of the program. This is significantly higher than the 2.8 percent increase in states that did not expand their Medicaid program. The research also found that while 15 million people gained health care coverage over the last year, the number of visits to doctors’ offices fell 3 percent. Hospital visits decreased 1.7 percent, and inpatient stays dropped 6.2 percent. Emergency room visits, however, saw an increase of 1.4 percent.

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