In Fight Against Opioid Addiction, Congress Focuses on Treatment, Not Restricting Access

Medicine bottles on a white background

Congress is focusing on expanding treatment for opioid addiction instead of restricting access to painkillers in its efforts to address the opioid epidemic, The New York Times reports.

Legislators seem to be willing to allow opioid prescriptions to remain widely accessible, the article notes.

The U.S. House, after overwhelmingly approving 18 bills last week aimed at addressing the nation’s opioid crisis, will work with the Senate to craft compromise legislation. The bills would increase prescription drug monitoring and treatment; fund efforts to dispose of prescription drugs; and assist states that want to expand the availability of the opioid overdose antidote naloxone. The Senate bill would expand the availability of medication-assisted treatment, including in criminal justice settings, and would support treatment as an alternative to incarceration.

Last month, Congress passed a measure, signed by President Obama, that limited the powers of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to go after pharmacies and wholesalers the agency believes have contributed to the opioid epidemic.

Chain pharmacies and drug distributors said DEA investigations hurt their businesses when the agency ordered immediate closures of pharmacies determined to be destinations for people addicted to opioids who were looking for more pills.

“The DEA has employed the same disrupt-and-dismantle tactics to take down international drug cartels and other criminals as it does to combat prescription drug abuse,” said John Gray, the President of the Healthcare Distribution Management Association, a trade organization for drug wholesalers.

Current and former DEA officials said a powerful lobby got the law passed. “Under this law, the bad actors simply have to promise to be good, and we won’t take them to court to punish them for what they’ve already done,” said Joseph T. Rannazzisi, former Director of the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control. “It’s obvious that industry had a very strong hand in crafting this bill.”

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    Billy, RPh, CACII

    May 26, 2016 at 12:47 PM

    Finally a sensible group of people who took a look at the ENTIRE situation and did the most useful thing ! Even though it does surprise me that our members of Congress are those people, I applaud their willingness to look at all the information available and enact legislation that will actually work rather than just read the headlines. Rx opioid prescribing started decreasing 4 years ago and continues to decrease. This has had no effect on deaths associated with opioids, which continues to rise. I also thank you on behalf of those who benefit from opioid therapy due to painful diseases, trauma or surgery. These “silent victims” are the only ones affected by putting more restrictions on opioid prescribing and have been ignored by those who propose ill-advised “guidelines” (CDC, PROP, restricting their use. It is hard to fathom the comments made by the DEA as nothing more than pouting when their strong-arm tactics are exposed for what they are-Bully tactics. Thank you again Congress. You did the right thing!!

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