Congressmen introduce bicameral legislation to combat opioid addiction

In a bicameral bill, two Congressmen hope to address the opioid crisis through a wide range of initiatives.

U. S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) introduced the Addiction Prevention and Responsible Opioid Practices Act Tuesday to their respective houses of Congress. The act would rein in the excessive volume of opioids on the market, the Congressmen said, and increase access to mental health and substance use disorder services.

“Tragically, our nation’s opioid epidemic is surging across our communities amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. This legislation holds Big Pharma accountable for fueling this crisis, improves opioid prescribing practices, and dramatically expands treatment—including telehealth services—for people who are battling addiction,” Durbin said.

According to the American Medical Association (AMA), over 35 states have reported seeing an increase in opioid-related mortality. Faced with economic uncertainty, anxiety and in some cases isolation, Americans with substance use disorder are at risk of resuming or continuing to use opioids. Additionally, responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as shut downs and stay-at-home orders, have made access to treatment, harm reduction services and naloxone more difficult to get.

“The opioid epidemic continues to ravage communities and devastate families across the country. Sadly, the pandemic seems to be making matters worse,” Cartwright said. “This legislation calls for a coordinated effort between drug companies, public health officials and the medical community to halt the scourge of opioid addiction in America.”

The Addiction Prevention and Responsible Opioid Practices Act would work on a number of fronts to address the opioid crisis. On the healthcare provider front, it would require continuing education for medical professionals who prescribe long term use of painkillers, as well as encouraging medical schools to “responsibly” educate future doctors about opioids. On the pharmaceutical front, it would improve FDA oversight of opioids, while requiring continued education for prescribers, as well as training and licensure for pharmaceutical sales representatives who sell opioids. And on the Medicaid/Medicare front, it would expand treatment options to include evidence-based alternatives to opioids and telehealth services. The bill would also require opioid manufacturers to develop and fund an opioid disposal program.

The bill is endorsed by the American Public Health Association and Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, the Congressmen said.

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