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Combating the Opioid Crisis: Spotlight

In The News

Energy and Commerce’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis have received national attention from leading news outlets.  Below is just some of the recent coverage.

Washington Post

Congressional report: Drug companies, DEA failed to stop flow of millions of opioid pills

The distributors of powerful prescription opioids and the Drug Enforcement Administration failed to stop the flow of millions of pills into rural West Virginia despite rampant warning signs that the pills were being diverted for abuse, inertia that contributed to the nation’s opioid epidemic, a congressional report has found.

A report from the majority staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee found that distributors, which fulfill orders for prescription drugs to pharmacies, failed to conduct proper oversight of their customers by not questioning suspicious activity and not properly monitoring the quantity of painkillers that were being shipped to individual pharmacies.

The committee also found that the DEA did not properly use a database that aims to monitor the flow of powerful prescription painkillers from manufacturers to sellers, something that could have allowed federal agents — in real time — to notice that millions of pills were being sent to pharmacies in West Virginia. The agency also curtailed enforcement of distributors, the report found, and infighting inside the agency affected the way cases were handled.

Read more here.

The Fentanyl Failure

Despite mounting deaths and warnings, the Obama administration did not take extraordinary measures to confront an extraordinary crisis, experts say.

In May 2016, a group of national health experts issued an urgent plea in a private letter to high-level officials in the Obama administration. Thousands of people were dying from overdoses of fentanyl — the deadliest drug to ever hit U.S. streets — and the administration needed to take immediate action. The epidemic had been escalating for three years.

The 11 experts pressed the officials to declare fentanyl a national “public health emergency” that would put a laserlike focus on combating the emerging epidemic and warn the country about the threat, according to a copy of the letter.

“The fentanyl crisis represents an extraordinary public health challenge — and requires an extraordinary public health response,” the experts wrote to six administration officials, including the nation’s “drug czar” and the chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The administration considered the request but did not act on it.

Read more here.

New York Times

In Rare Bipartisan Accord, House and Senate Reach Compromise on Opioid Bill

The House and Senate have reached agreement on a big package of measures to address the opioid epidemic. The legislation, backed by leaders of both parties, is a rare bipartisan achievement that lawmakers are eager to have in hand when they go home to campaign for the midterm elections. The 653-page bill contains a mix of law enforcement and public health measures, including one that aims to block deadly fentanyl from being imported through the mail and one that will allow more nurses to prescribe medication for opioid addiction. Another provision could make it easier for Medicaid recipients to get inpatient care for substance abuse over the next five years. “While there is more work to be done, this bipartisan legislation takes an important step forward and will save lives,” a group of Republican and Democratic committee leaders said in a statement.

Read more here.

USA Today

Congress reaches agreement on prescription for fighting the nation’s opioid epidemic

Congress has reached a consensus on a prescription for battling the nation’s opioid epidemic, assuring that the package will land soon on President Donald Trump’s desk. Negotiators for the House and Senate announced late Tuesday they had struck an agreement on a package of bills that would make it easier to stop illegal drugs at the border, speed up research for new nonaddictive prescription painkillers and make treatment more readily available for those who are addicted. The House could take up the bill as early as this week. It was not immediately clear when the Senate would vote on the legislation.

Read more here.

NBC News

House passes massive package to address opioids crisis

The House on Friday passed the most ambitious congressional push yet to address the growing opioid epidemic, with provisions directing federal agencies to prioritize training, support recovery centers and expand research on several fronts.

The package, made up of 58 individual House-approved bills, is the largest legislative effort in recent history to address an epidemic that killed 42,000 people in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One of the provisions would direct the National Institutes of Health to develop nonaddictive painkillers. Another would try to change how prescription pills are distributed to reduce the potential for abuse.

Read more here.


House approves massive opioids legislation

The House of Representatives on Friday passed the most expansive legislation Congress has taken to date to address the opioid crisis, approving a bipartisan package that combines 58 bills passed in the last two weeks.

Provisions in the final package address a wide range of issues related to the crisis that is wreaking havoc across the country, such as expanding access to treatment and recovery services, coming up with opioid alternatives for pain treatment, intercepting illegal opioids at mail facilities and combating use of fentanyl. In a time of sharp partisan divides and vitriol, the 396-14 bipartisan vote underscored the reach and scope of the crisis on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers and staff say the issue has become one of, if not the, top issues they hear about from constituents in their states and districts.

Read more here.

CBS News

House passes bipartisan legislation on opioids

The House on Friday voted 396 to 14 to send the Senate more than 50 bills aimed at tackling the opioid crisis, which is claiming more than 115 lives each day in the U.S.

The bills, nearly all of which were bipartisan, were wrapped into a single package, named the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (H.R. 6). They aim to study the crisis and treatment efforts, increase treatment options and bed space, aid the development of non-addictive pain treatments, fight trafficking of counterfeit and illicit drugs, and more.

“For too long, embarrassment and stigma surrounded the disease of addiction,” House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden, R-Oregon, said. “It’s time for that to change. If you’re struggling with addiction, if you’re fighting that invisible battle, please know that it’s okay to seek help.”

Read more here.


House overwhelmingly passes final opioid package

The House on Friday overwhelmingly passed sweeping bipartisan opioid legislation, concluding the chamber’s two-week voteathon on dozens of bills to address the drug abuse epidemic.

The measure, H.R. 6, combines more than 50 bills approved individually by the House focusing on expanding access to treatment, encouraging the development of alternative pain treatments and curbing the flow of illicit drugs into the U.S. It was passed 396-14, with 13 Republicans and one Democrat voting against the package.

Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) called the legislation, which largely originated in his committee, “the biggest effort Congress has ever undertaken” to address the opioid epidemic. Democrats and anti-addiction advocates criticized the effort for not including more resources, but still supported the legislation.

Read more here.

ABC News

House passes comprehensive bill to combat growing opioid epidemic

The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan, comprehensive bill Friday that aims at curbing the country’s growing opioid epidemic.

By a vote of 396-14, the House passed H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients Communities Act, which is the collective product of the lower chamber’s extensive effort this year to combat the opioid crisis.

The bill contains several Medicaid, Medicare, and public health reforms, such as adding a review of current opioid prescriptions and screening for opioid use disorder as part of the Welcome to Medicare initial examination. It also aims at reducing the trafficking of Chinese fentanyl into the United States by giving law enforcement new tools to detect suspicious packages in the mail.

Read more here.

Associated Press

House approves bill expanding treatment for opioid abuse

The House has overwhelmingly approved legislation designed to give health care providers more tools to stem an opioid crisis that is killing more than 115 people in the United States daily.

The legislation passed Friday by a vote of 396-14. It incorporates dozens of opioid-related bills that lawmakers have made a campaign-season priority.

In urging the passage of the bill, many lawmakers told personal stories about how opioid abuse has affected constituents, family and friends. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told the story of his press secretary, Erin Perrine, whose brother, Eamon, died of a drug overdose in 2016. McCarthy said she learned of his death just weeks before her wedding.

Read more here.

Fox News

Chairman Walden  joined America’s Newsroom on Fox News with Bill Hemmer and Sandra Smith to discuss the House’s two-week push advancing legislation to help families and communities across the country, Chairman Walden said, “These bills will save American lives.”

Opinion Editorial: Important bills to fight the opioid epidemic are up for House consideration

By Reps. Greg Walden and Michael Burgess

All across America, communities are grappling with an opioid crisis that has wreaked unprecedented havoc. Chances are high that most of us know someone who has struggled with addiction or may have even battled addiction ourselves. No matter your background, where you live, or how old you are, no person or community is immune to this epidemic.

Sadly, opioid overdoses claim the lives of more than 100 Americans each and every day.

The opioid crisis has hit our country in waves, evolving over time. From pills, to heroin, to synthetic drugs like fentanyl, this ever-changing threat necessitates an ongoing and flexible federal response.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, the panel tasked with writing most of the nation’s health-care laws, continues our years-long fight to turn the tide of the epidemic with dozens of bills that will be considered by the House of Representatives in the coming days.

Read more here.

60 Minutes

On September 30, 2018, 60 Minutes featured a segment on the opioid epidemic, including a look at the Energy and Commerce Committee’s extensive investigative work to determine the root causes of the crisis.  Watch the video below for an excerpt from Inside the Epidemic: 60 Minutes examines the opioid crisis.

Read more here.

NBC Nightly News

On February 1, 2018, NBC Nightly News highlighted the committee’s expanding West Virginia pill dumping investigation.  Watch the on-air segment below:

Watch the video and read NBC News’ full report here.

Charleston Gazette-Mail

Who is with WV and who’s with the pill pushers?
By the Editorial Board

After looking at the flood of addictive pills poured into West Virginia for profit over the last decade or so, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said recently:

“These numbers are outrageous, and we will get to the bottom of how this destruction was able to be unleashed across West Virginia.”

Then, at The Greenbrier resort last week, Walden told reporters his committee is not getting enough cooperation from the U.S. Department of Justice or the Drug Enforcement Agency.

That’s a Republican congressman, by the way, working on a bipartisan cause, having trouble getting an appropriate response from the Republican administration. The congressman’s difficulty raises questions, again, about how serious the DEA is — or more accurately, the DEA’s bosses are — about killer opioids in West Virginia.

Read more here.

The Washington Post

One small town, two drug companies and 12.3 million doses of opioids

Two of the nation’s biggest drug distributors shipped 12.3 million doses of powerful opioids to a single pharmacy in a tiny West Virginia town over an eight-year period, a congressional committee revealed Thursday.

The Family Discount Pharmacy in Mount Gay-Shamrock received the drugs from McKesson Corp. and Cardinal Health between 2006 and 2014, according to the House Energy and Commerce committee.

Read more here.


Drug executives to testify before Congress about their role in U.S. opioid crisis

Current and former executives with the pharmaceutical companies that are accused of flooding communities with powerful prescription painkillers have been summoned to testify before Congress about their role in the U.S. opioid epidemic.

The hearing, scheduled for May 8 before a House Energy and Commerce Committee oversight panel, has the potential to be a defining moment for the pharmaceutical industry, much like when tobacco executives were called to testify before Congress in 1994. The pharmaceutical executives are expected to face tough questions under oath about why their companies pumped so many highly addictive pain pills into West Virginia and other states, fueling what has become the deadliest drug crisis in U.S. history.

Read more here.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Photo courtesy U.S. Chamber of Commerce

In March 2018,  House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) delivered keynote remarks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as part of a forum examining solutions to combat the opioid crisis.

More on the U.S. Chamber event here.

American Enterprise Institute

Photo courtesy of Aaron Clamage Photography © American Enterprise Institute

In November 2017, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) joined the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) for a conversation on Congress’ efforts to combat the opioid crisis. Following the discussion, Chairman Walden stopped by AEI’s policy podcast, Banter.

To view the entire AEI event click here.

Hearst Television

On September 13, 2017, Hearst Television aired a live primetime one-hour special across its station group to address America’s opioid epidemic.  The special included a segment with Chairman Walden, who highlighted the committee’s ongoing investigations related to the opioid crisis.

Click the image to view the entire special.  Chairman Walden appears at 49:13.

Chairman Walden’s Sept. 2017 Op-Ed on the Opioid Crisis

“The effects are disastrous and heartbreaking. The reach is from coast to coast. The opioid crisis has truly reached epidemic proportions, fueled by dangerous new chemical versions and illicitly manufactured synthetic drugs. Scan the headlines on any given day and you’ll hear about a life gone too soon to addiction or about a raid that seized obscene quantities of prescription painkillers or illicit drugs.

“It is killing our friends, family members and neighbors in communities across the country.”

Read more in Morning Consult.

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