Is This the End of Painkiller Abuse?
The House of Representatives recently passed the 2015 version of a bill entitled “The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act.” It’s a major step forward in ending painkiller abuse once and for all.
HR 471, as it’s known in the House, is the latest version of a multiyear anti-painkiller legislative schedule. Various iterations of this bill have been floating around Congress since 2013. This year’s version, sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats, was passed into law on Tuesday, April 21st.
Marsha Blackburn, a Republican representative from Tennessee and a cosponsor of the bill, had the following to say about HR 471,
“…This legislation will foster a more collaborative environment between manufacturers, wholesalers, retail pharmacies and federal enforcement agencies…We must be aggressive about addressing this epidemic, while also ensuring that patients who need medications to alleviate pain and treat illnesses will have access to them through a safe and secure supply chain” (Representative Tom Marino’s Website).
While this law alone isn’t going to put the nail in the coffin of painkiller abuse, it’s a monumental step forward for lawmakers and citizens alike. Read on to learn what exactly The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act is all about and what makes this year’s version different from former versions of the bill.
The Newest Painkiller Abuse Law
Perhaps the first thing apparent about HR 471, and Congress’ other efforts to curb opioid abuse, is how bipartisan they are. Peter Welch, a Democrat from Vermont, and Tom Marino, a Republican from Pennsylvania, authored this particular bill. Congresswoman Blackburn (mentioned above), a Republican from Tennessee, and Judy Chu, a Democrat from California, then cosponsored it.
It’s clear from this bipartisan attitude just how serious the government is about fighting opioid abuse. It’s also clear that they’re pulling no punches. They’re rolling out the red carpet, so to speak, for further bills and motions in Congress.
Following along this line of thinking, a bill identical to HR 471 is making its way through the Senate. The bill, S 483, was introduced by both Democrats and Republicans. Much like the House of Representatives bill, it promises continued action on the part of federal agencies and local pharmacies.
And here we get into what HR 471 actually does. After all, I didn’t call the bill monumental for nothing! The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act has a few major implications.
First, it removes the ambiguity that exists between federal and state level drug delivery guidelines. Put into simpler terms, HR 471 gets rid of conflicting laws. Federal and state laws can, and often do, conflict each other. No longer is that the case. HR 471 implements one set of nationwide laws regarding drug delivery and compliance guidelines.
Second, the bill promotes collaboration between federal agencies (the DEA, the ONDCP, and others), local law enforcement (state and city police forces), and drug suppliers (pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies themselves). With all cogs in the machine on the same page, working together and sharing information, there’s much less chance for painkiller diversion and abuse.
Think about it like this – if a local police force sees a spike in Vicodin arrests, they can communicate this information to local pharmacies. These pharmacies will then be better prepared for forged prescriptions and other diversion methods. The police force can also inform the DEA, who can compare local Vicodin arrests against nationwide data. The results of this comparison can be shown to pharmaceutical companies to help them develop more effective “abuse-deterrent” forms of Vicodin.
About this unprecedented level of communication and collaboration, HR 471 author Tom Marino had the following to say,
…It requires federal agencies like HHS to actually consult with local pharmacies and other stakeholders on how best to prevent prescription drug abuse; especially from an operational standpoint. We have to remember it is pharmaceutical professionals on the ground that are closest to this issue and know how to appropriately address it (Congressman Marino’s Website).