Multipronged Approach to Opioid Epidemic Continues

The National Governors Association (NGA) has voted to create standard guidelines for prescribing opioids. The vote is a part of a nationwide effort to combat the prescription drug abuse epidemic. The NGA health committee is expected to draft the opioid prescribing guidance before it is voted upon by the full NGA at their summer meeting. This week, the Senate will begin consideration of the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), introduced by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). S. 524 would redirect existing federal resources toward opioid abuse treatment and prevention programs, as well as increase the availability of naloxone. It was recently advanced by the Judiciary Committee by voice vote. While the legislation is widely supported by anti-addiction groups, a number of congressional Democrats have threatened to withdraw their support if it does not include an amendment from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) to add $600 million in supplemental emergency funding to counter the epidemic. There have also been reports that the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will mark up a broad bipartisan mental health and substance abuse bill on March 16. The bill, which has not yet been introduced, was written by Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.). It will likely include provisions on issues such as the mental health workforce, abuse of prescription painkillers, and behavioral health in the Medicaid program. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) also introduced a bill last week (S. 2567) that would require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop a voluntary opioid prescribing guideline for acute pain.

Precision Medicine Initiative Celebrates One Year Anniversary

On the anniversary of the launch of the Precision Medicine Initiative, the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
announced that the Initiative’s first award will be granted to Vanderbilt and Verily to start the initial phase of a personal medicine databank. The Administration’s goal is to have 79,000 volunteers by the end of the year, with 1 million participants by 2019. During the precision medicine summit last week, the President named siloed data and a lack of data sharing as the biggest obstacles facing precision medicine and interoperability. We expect to see legislative language on a Precision Medicine initiative from Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray in the coming weeks.

Budget Resolution Expected Mid-March

Republicans on the House Budget Committee have reached an agreement on a fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget framework. The House Budget Committee plans to put forward a plan next month that would adhere to the spending levels determined by last year’s budget deal, while giving members the chance to vote on other bills that would cut government spending. The budget resolution would use spending bills to cut $30 billion from mandatory spending on programs like Medicare and Social Security in order to offset the $30 billion in additional discretionary spending passed by Congress last year. The plan would lay out a path to eliminate the deficit over the next decade. House appropriations leaders from both sides of the aisle are approaching the proposal with caution, due to concerns about attaching mandatory spending cuts to appropriations bills, doing away with the customary separation between appropriations bills and other types of legislation. Many Republicans have long criticized the spending levels set last fall by President Obama and then Speaker of the House John Boehner. Chairman of the Budget Committee Tom Price (R-Ga.) indicated that a markup of the FY 2017 blueprint would take place on a delayed budgetary schedule, during the third week of March instead of the last week of February.

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