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Enactment of drug abuse bill praised by Rx groups

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WASHINGTON — Enactment of a new law designed to curtail drug abuse while maintaining legitimate access to medications has been hailed by pharmacy groups including the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

The legislation — which advances collaboration among health and enforcement authorities — is a positive step for people who have been affected by prescription drug abuse and lack of access to needed medications, said NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson. He described a broad-based and consistent effort to urge meaningful dialogue and action on the issues.

“To help raise awareness of the complexities surrounding these problems, NACDS and the U.S. Pain Foundation cowrote an op-ed that was published last year in the Tampa Tribune,” he said. “That op-ed started with the frank realities of the situation: ‘To hear of one family devastated by prescription drug abuse is to receive motivation to tackle the problem. Yet to hear a story of a suffering patient who cannot receive a needed pain medication serves as equal motivation to protect access. Both of these scenarios need to be addressed — simultaneously.’ ”

The new law is “one part of the culture change that needs to occur to make possible a nuanced approach to this complex issue,” added Anderson.

He praised four House members and two senators for leadership of the bill: Rep. Tom Marino (R., Pa.), House Energy and Commerce Committee vice chairman Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.), Rep. Judy Chu (D., Calif.), Rep. Peter Welch (D., Vt.), Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.). He also thanked those in the patient advocacy and enforcement communities, and other allies in health care “for making possible this important step toward consensus.”

NACDS has noted that the law is highly consistent with public attitudes. In an opinion study commissioned by the association last summer, likely voters who are engaged and aware when it comes to current events indicated through their responses an appreciation for the need to address drug abuse and drug access ­complementarily.

Nearly eight in 10 respondents agreed with the statement: “Pharmacies have a dual role when it comes to battling prescription drug abuse: They have to be part of the solution by working with law enforcement officials to stop prescription drug abuse, but they also have to maintain their responsibilities to patients by making sure they receive the medications they legitimately need.”

John Gray, president and CEO of the Healthcare Distribution Management Association, called the law “a victory for not only supply chain stakeholders and regulators, who share a common goal in mitigating the scourge of prescription drug abuse in this country, but the many individuals who rely on life-enhancing pain medicines every day.”


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