March 11, 2016
Senate Passes Bipartisan Legislation to Address Opioid Abuse Epidemic
On March 10, the Senate voted 94-1 to pass S. 524, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), bipartisan legislation to address the opioid abuse epidemic. The bill will next be considered by the House of Representatives. Introduced by Senators Whitehouse (D-RI) and Portman (R-OH), CARA establishes a Pain Management Best Practices Interagency Task Force to develop best practices for pain management and prescribing pain medication and authorizes several grant programs to expand prevention, education, and treatment efforts. Notably, the legislation supports expanding access to naloxone to prevent opioid-related deaths, a move strongly supported by the ASA. The Senate also adopted an amendment offered by Senator Toomey (R-PA) which allows Medicare prescription drug plan sponsors to require beneficiaries at-risk for prescription drug abuse to utilize one prescriber and one pharmacy for frequently abused drugs.
The Senate did not consider two ASA-supported amendments to the bill which would allow for the partial filling of prescriptions for schedule II drugs and which would permit NIH to intensify research on the understanding of pain and the development of new therapies for chronic pain. However, both of these proposals may be considered by the Senate at a later date. The Senate also did not consider the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Act, an ASA-supported program that provides funding to states for their prescription drug monitoring programs, but a bill reauthorizing this program is scheduled to be marked up by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions next week.
ASA looks forward to working with the Congress as it continues to consider CARA and other legislation to address the opioid abuse epidemic.