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Prescription drug abuse bill ready to be signed into law

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ARLINGTON, Va. — Legislation that would improve efforts to fight prescription drug abuse without impeding legitimate patients’ access to medication is set to go before President Barack Obama to be signed into law.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016 (S. 483) in the same version approved by the Senate last month. The House had passed a slightly different version in April 2015.

Capitol Building front_featuredSponsored by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.), S. 483 would foster the collaboration of health and enforcement authorities in combating abuse and misuse of prescription drugs while giving patients ready access to the medicines they need.

That balance enabled the bill to garner broad support from pharmacy industry stakeholders, including the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), the Healthcare Distribution Management Association (HDMA) and the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).

“S. 483 establishes commonsense policies that will bring together supply chain stakeholders and regulators to address prescription drug abuse in a more transparent and collaborative way,” HDMA president and chief executive officer John Gray said in a statement.

NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson commented, “This legislation is consistent with NACDS’ position that the complexity of these issues demands a 100% commitment to patient care and a zero tolerance for abuse. We appreciate the leadership of 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.) for a tremendous accomplishment: guiding an excellent piece of legislation to the brink of becoming law.”

Both NACDS and HDMA noted that the measure progressed steadily through Congress. What’s more, NACDS said, the legislation reflects public attitudes. In a voter survey commissioned by NACDS last summer, almost eight in 10 respondents agreed with the following 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.”

“More than three years ago, HDMA’s pharmaceutical distributor members created the initial concept that later became the bill that was passed today. It has been gratifying to watch as the primary framework, initially advocated by our industry and supported by patient, pharmacy and provider groups, gained champions in the House and Senate and evolved into full-fledged legislation that ultimately garnered bipartisan support,” Gray added. “Following President Obama’s signing of the bill, HDMA will continue to work with our members, regulators and supply chain partners, to ensure that the legislation delivers on its promise.”

NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey stated, “NCPA commends Congress for approving this bipartisan legislation, and we look forward to its expected signature into law by President Obama. This legislation advances NCPA’s dual aim of reducing prescription drug abuse while ensuring access for patients with legitimate medical need for prescription painkillers. NCPA worked constructively with Congress and stakeholders in the development of this legislation and, in particular, we appreciate the efforts of Sens. Orrin Hatch and Sheldon Whitehouse and Reps. Tom Marino and Peter Welch.”


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