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News & Press: Government Affairs News

Outlook: Congress and Opioids

Thursday, April 26, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Bradley Coffey, MA, AAOE Government Affairs
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Washington, DC - This week (week of April 23, 2018) both the House and Senate are considering numerous bills to deal with the opioid crisis. In the Senate, the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 which would attempt to halt the opioid crisis through a mix of research, substance abuse treatment, and prescriber limits among other provisions. In the House, the Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Health marked up 64 bills on April 25, 2018. These bills ran the gamut from allowing pharmacists to deny filling fraudulent opioid prescriptions to requiring the Food and Drug Administration to consider a drug's potential for misuse and abuse when it is going through the approval process. Ultimately, the committee passed 57 of these bills but most target addiction treatment and not the prescription of opioids.

Why It Matters: The opioid crisis has ravaged the United States for 20 years with prescription opioid abuse beginning in the mid-1990s with the abuse of Purdue Pharma's OxyContin. Heroin and synthetic opioid abuse began increasing in 2010 after providers and manufacturers began tightening prescribing guidelines for drugs like OxyContin. The cost in lives and economic output have confounded policymakers and the crisis has made its way into our electoral politics, pushing lawmakers to devise solutions.

As one of the medical specialties that treats both chronic and acute pain, orthopaedic clinical workflows will likely be highly impacted by any public policies designed to curb the use of opioid analgesics.

Data Point of the Day:

  • $504 billion - cost to the US economy in 2016 both in treatment and lost economic output due to deaths or lost productivity from surviving opioid addicts.

What's Next: The Senate legislation will likely be considered on the floor over the summer. The House legislation will be packaged into a similar bundle of bills to create a large omnibus opioids package. That legislation will need to be considered by the full committee before it advances to the House floor, a target that Energy and Commerce Chair Greg Walden (R-OR) hopes to meet by June. Before any legislation becomes law, both the House and Senate bills will need to be reconciled in a conference committee and both chambers must vote on the same bill. The earliest you can likely expect to see the President sign (or veto) a comprehensive opioid bill will likely be September just before the midterm elections in November.

Article updated April 27, 2018 to reflect new information on legislative timelines.


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