WASHINGTON, DC – Today marks the one-year anniversary of the signing into law of the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act – a bipartisan response to the nation’s opioid crisis that has been called the most significant congressional effort against a single drug crisis in history.
This law is already making an impact in the fight against the opioid crisis, helping patients and communities move #ForwardWithSUPPORT. Key provisions of the law are being implemented on the ground just as new preliminary data show a decline in drug overdose deaths for the first time in nearly 30 years.
But just as the SUPPORT Act was not the first Energy and Commerce Committee-led response to the nation’s opioid crisis, it should also not be the last. Previous Congressional efforts have included the passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and the 21st Century Cures Act in the 114th Congress. In addition, billions of dollars were appropriated to boost programs that fight, treat, and stop substance abuse, and support access to mental health services in the 115th Congress.
And while the SUPPORT Act is already helping to advance treatment and recovery initiatives, improve prevention, protect our communities, and bolster our efforts to fight deadly illicit synthetic drugs like fentanyl, we should always be evaluating our efforts and looking for opportunities for new legislation to meet an ever-changing epidemic.
Here are 12 bills that Congress could consider in order to further our efforts to combat the opioid crisis.
First, two pieces of legislation that passed the House along with the SUPPORT Act but were ultimately not included in the final package that became law.
- H.R. 2062, the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act, sponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK). Last Congress, the House passed the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 357-57. When treating individuals with substance use disorders (SUD), providers are often unaware of the risks to their patient from multiple drug interactions and co-existing medical problems. This bill would put the protection of substance use disorder records under HIPAA instead of 42 CFR Part 2, thereby enabling medical professionals to access that important information when treating patients. In August, the Administration took action to address outdated federal substance use disorder (SUD) confidentiality law and regulations that are actively interfering in the safe treatment of patients. But passing this legislation into law is the best way to permanently ensure health care providers can effectively treat patients with substance use disorders.
- Legislation that provides tools to law enforcement to aid in getting illicit synthetic drugs, such as fentanyl, out of our communities without compromising important public health and research protections. Last Congress, similar legislation, the Stop the Importation & Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues (SITSA) Act, sponsored by Rep. John Katko (R-NY), passed the House by a 239-142 vote.
Second, two recently introduced bills that address policy issues that emerged from Energy & Commerce’s bipartisan investigation into the distribution of prescription opioids by wholesale drug distributors, with a specific focus on distribution practices in West Virginia, and enforcement practices by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) last Congress. In December 2018, the committee released a report summarizing its findings and providing legislative recommendations.
- H.R. 4806, the Debarment Enforcement of Bad Actor Registrants (DEBAR) Act, sponsored by Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), amends the Controlled Substances Act to give the DEA debarment authority to permanently prohibit a person or entity that has violated the CSA from being able to receive a registration to manufacture, distribute, or dispense a controlled substance.
- H.R. 4812, the Ensuring Compliance Against Opioid Diversion Act, sponsored by Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), amends the Controlled Substances Act to prohibit the transfer of any DEA registration without written consent from the agency. The committee investigation found that an opioid distributor and its pharmacy customer did not go through the appropriate process of transferring a registration to a new pharmacy owner. Failing to appropriately contact the DEA and verify whether the agency approved the transfer of a registration to dispense controlled substances creates a serious risk that could facilitate drug diversion by providing controlled substances to a person that has not been vetted by the appropriate regulatory authorities.
There are several additional bills that have been introduced this Congress, which could aid in our efforts in various ways:
- H.R. 4810, the Opioid Prescription Verification Act, sponsored by Reps. Rodney Davis (R-IL), Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ), John Shimkus (R-IL), Bob Latta R-OH), Larry Bucshon (R-IN), which aims to stop ‘pharmacy shopping’ of opioid prescriptions which are then illegally sold on the street. The bill would facilitate responsible, informed dispensing of opioids, controlled substances, and other prescribed medications – requiring pharmacists to check the ID of the person picking up a prescription – in order to curb illicit prescription shopping and better utilize each state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to track patterns of abuse.
- H.R. 4814, the Suspicious Order Identification Act of 2019, sponsored by Reps. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Bill Johnson (R-OH), which requires DEA registrants to electronically report on every sale, delivery, or disposal (other than dispensing by a practitioner) by registrants of any controlled substance within 30 days. The bill also establishes a Suspicious Order Monitoring Task Force, which will help design a program to facilitate real time data sharing to and from registrants, including the limited sharing of Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System (ARCOS) data, in order to help identify suspicious ordering in real time. The Task Force will make a recommendation to the Attorney General, who will then review the information and establish the program.
- H.R. 3878, the Block, Report, And Suspend Suspicious Shipments Act, sponsored by Reps. David McKinley (R-WV) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI), amends the Controlled Substances Act to require drug manufacturers, distributors and other DEA registrants to both report and stop any suspicious drug orders. This legislation also addresses a recommendation from the committee’s opioid distribution report.
- H.R. 3927, the PDMPs Help Patients Act, sponsored by Reps. David McKinley (R-WV) and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), authorizes HHS to create a pilot program to test the feasibility and outcomes of integrating a SUD and behavioral health treatment locator tool into the PDMPs of 5 eligible States.
- H.R. 501, the Poison Center Network Enhancement Act, sponsored by Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Susan Brooks (R-IN), Diana DeGette (D-CO), and Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-WA), reauthorizes and enhances the poison center national toll-free number, national media campaign, and grant program. The House passed this legislation by voice vote in February.
- H.R. 4131, the Improving Access to Remote Behavioral Health Treatment Act, sponsored by Reps. Doris Matsui (D-CA), Susan Brooks (R-IN), Ann Kuster (D-NH), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), and Rob Wittman (R-VA) would allow certain addiction treatment centers and community mental health centers to register with the Drug Enforcement Administration to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine without a prior in-person examination, with the goal of increasing access to SUD treatment.
- H.R. 2281, the Easy MAT for Opioid Addiction Act, sponsored by Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA), allows practitioners to administer not more than 3 days’ medication to a person at one time when administering for the purpose of relieving acute withdrawal symptom.
- H.R. 1303, the Examining Opioid Treatment Infrastructure Act, sponsored by Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), which directs the GAO to evaluate and report on the inpatient and outpatient treatment capacity, availability, and needs of the United States.
As the opioid crisis has changed and evolved over time, Congress has worked to meet the challenge head on. The SUPPORT Act was a major milestone in our ongoing efforts. And while the legislation highlighted above shouldn’t be viewed as an exhaustive list, it represents several new steps Congress could take—right now—to continue moving #ForwardWithSUPPORT