This is an extremely busy time on Capitol Hill for legislation aimed at reducing opioid abuse and addiction. No less than four key committees with jurisdiction over health policy- Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), Senate Finance, House Energy and Commerce and House Ways and Means are hard at work on comprehensive new opioid legislation with a goal of completing efforts before Memorial Day and then sending legislation to the floor of each chamber in June.
“There is still time for people living with pain and friends and family members to contact your Congressional representatives in both the House and Senate—particularly those who are members of these four key committees—to explain the challenges you have had accessing nonpharmacological treatments for pain, as well as accessing appropriately and legitimately prescribed opioids for those of you who may rely on these treatments,” says Cindy Steinberg, U.S. Pain’s national director of Policy & Advocacy, who is closely monitoring all legislation.
As of the date of this article, the Senate HELP Committee is the first to release their comprehensive bill entitled S 2680, the “Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018” (OCRA). A major theme of this legislation from a pain perspective is Congressional emphasis on the use of nonaddictive medications and nonpharmacological treatments and medical devices for pain. The committee directs the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee (IPRCC) to study and report on best practices for such nonaddictive treatments (two U.S. Pain Foundation representatives currently serve on the IPRCC). It also directs the Food & Drug Administration to hold a meeting to address challenges and barriers to developing nonaddictive medical products, as well as standards for future “opioid sparing” labeling and Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide technical assistance directly or through grants to hospitals and acute care settings on the use of nonopioid treatments for pain.
Another theme in OCRA that impacts the pain community is continued government focus on opioid prescribing limits as a strategy for curtailing abuse, addiction, and overdose. The legislation would require HHS and the attorney general to conduct and submit a report on the impact of federal and state laws and regulations that limit the length, quantity, or dosage of opioid prescriptions as well as an awareness and educational campaign for prescribers on appropriate prescribing.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee legislation will be next with a bill due out of committee the second week in May. House Ways and Means and Senate Finance will come soon after that. Ultimately, differences between the two chambers versions of bills will be worked out with a final large package certain to pass this summer and go to the president for signature.
To learn more about U.S. Pain’s advocacy efforts, click here.