WASHINGTON — Legislation designed to combat the abuse of prescription medications has been introduced in the U.S. Senate, following passage of a similar bill in the House.
The bill would establish a congressionally mandated report from the Department of Health and Human Services, which would be required to seek input from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The report would identify opportunities to reduce prescription drug abuse without compromising access to medications for patients who legitimately need them. The report will also reflect the feedback and recommendations of various stakeholders, including the pharmacy industry.
Known as S. 2862, the Regulatory Transparency, Patient Access, and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2014, the bill was introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah), the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Finance, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.), a member of the Senate’s International Narcotics Control Caucus.
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores has endorsed the bill. “We applaud Sens. Hatch and Whitehouse for their leadership in moving forward with this legislation to address one of the most complex public health problems we face,” said NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson. “Problems like drug abuse and meeting patients’ needs merit the highest form of collaboration among experts in government and in the private sector, but the best of intentions do not always provide that.”
The Senate bill largely mirrors H.R. 4709, the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2014, which passed the House in August.
“NACDS and chain pharmacy are committed to working together with federal and state agencies, law enforcement personnel, policy makers, and other stakeholders to work on viable strategies to simultaneously advance patient health and prevent prescription drug abuse,” said Anderson.
The legislation also has the backing of the Healthcare Distribution Management Association (HDMA).
“We are pleased that the Senate, particularly Sens. Hatch and Whitehouse, have recognized the importance of promoting collaborative and transparent efforts between pharmaceutical industry stakeholders and federal regulators in reducing prescription drug abuse and diversion,” said HDMA president and CEO John Gray.
He added that, like the legislation that passed the House, the Senate bill will allow companies registered with the DEA to submit corrective action plans to address the agency’s concerns. It will also clarify the Controlled Substances Act to give industry stakeholders a clear understanding of what their responsibilities are under the law.
“We are hopeful that this bicameral momentum will continue, especially now that the House of Representatives has passed H.R. 4709,” Gray said. “HDMA and the nation’s primary pharmaceutical distributors pledge to work closely with both chambers to ensure passage of this legislation.”s