Senators call out Drug Enforcement Agency’s “foot-dragging” on opioid regulations

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A bipartisan group of U.S. Congressmen is again calling on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to finalize “partial fill” regulations, saying the regulations will help combat the nation’s opioid crisis.

In a letter to the Timothy Shea, Acting Administrator of the DEA, U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Shelley Moore Capito (D-WV), and U.S. Reps. Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Steve Stivers (R-OH) asked the DEA to change the definition of “partial fill” to align with the 2016 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA).

Section 702 of CARA allows patients to have a portion of their opioid prescription filled and later return to the pharmacy for the rest of it if their pain continues. The partial fill policy would reduce the number of unused opioids in circulation, the lawmakers said, and allow patients and doctors to have greater control over the number of opioids in their possession.

The DEA’s current definition for “partial fill” only allows pharmacists to partially fill a prescription if they lack the sufficient quantity of medication to fill it completely.

“More than 10 million people aged 12 and older reported abusing an opioid in the past year, with over 50 percent of those who abused a prescription pain reliever reporting that they obtained it from a friend or family member, and just 37 percent as a prescription from their doctor,” the lawmakers wrote. “Additionally, since the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, 40 states have reported increases of opioid overdoses.”

Lawmakers made a similar request in July 2018. Now, however, the issue is more pressing, they said, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The ready availability of opioids to millions of Americans and the disruption of life-saving treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic have compounded this ongoing national crisis. Defining ‘partial fill’ and fully implementing Section 702 of CARA will reduce the number of prescription opioids in circulation, a crucial step in addressing the opioid crisis that is devastating communities across the country. DEA’s continuing foot-dragging on this issue puts Americans at risk,” the lawmakers wrote.

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