WASHINGTON — The National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association applauded the House of Representatives’ passage of the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2015 (H.R. 471).
NACDS and NCPA noted that the legislation, approved by the House on Tuesday, will help curb abuse of prescription drugs without impeding patient access to medications, in particular drugs used to treat chronic pain. The bill was introduced earlier this year by Reps. Tom Marino (R., Pa.), Peter Welch (D., Vt.), Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) and Judy Chu (D., Calif.).
“Florida has been at the epicenter of the debate concerning combating prescription drug abuse while ensuring legitimate patient access to critical pain medications,” Rep. David Jolly (R., Fla.) said in support of the bill in remarks on the House floor Tuesday. “Unfortunately, federal agencies have not coordinated their efforts to ensure appropriate access to prescription controlled substances. In Florida, and elsewhere, we are seeing legitimate patients who are getting caught up in the efforts to stop prescription drug abuse. The key to this legislation is collaboration and coordination. This commonsense measure will help us more effectively fight prescription drug abuse while ensuring that Americans are able to get their needed pain medications.”
Specifically, H.R. 471 would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to work jointly with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Office of National Drug Control Policy to assess obstacles to legitimate patient access to controlled substances and to identify how collaboration between agencies and stakeholders can benefit patients and prevent diversion and abuse of prescription drugs.
“Prescription drug abuse, addiction and patient access to medically-necessary medications are complex issues that are not mutually exclusive,” NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson said in a statement. “Addressing one problem can lead to unintended consequences. That’s why the passage of H.R. 471 today is paramount. It looks at the big picture and seeks to bring together all stakeholders — patients, law enforcement, pharmacy, prescribers and others — to find the best solution to prevent abuse and addiction and ensure that patients have access to their medications.”
NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey described current federal law enforcement coordination and communication with private health care stakeholders as “woefully inadequate,” noting that patients with legitimate medical needs and community pharmacists experience arbitrary quotas on supplies of controlled substances and abrupt supply cut-offs.
“NCPA supports this legislation in the hope that it can help achieve a better balance to reduce prescription drug abuse while ensuring those patients with chronic, debilitating pain have access to essential medications,” Hoey stated.
“H.R. 471 can help facilitate more effective dialogue between law enforcement and private industry,” he added. “In cases where potential problems may arise, the legislation would give pharmacies the opportunity to submit a corrective action plan to ensure compliance with federal requirements and without the revocation or suspension of the pharmacy’s license to dispense controlled substances. In addition, the legislation would require a federal report, with the input of pharmacies, to examine obstacles to legitimate patient access to controlled substances and how collaboration between federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies and the pharmaceutical industry can benefit patients and prevent diversion and abuse of controlled substances.”
NACDS is urging the Senate to pass similar bipartisan legislation, S. 483, the Senate version of the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2015, which is sponsored by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.).