Hart Health Strategies provides a comprehensive policy briefing on a weekly basis. This in-depth health policy briefing is sent out at the beginning of each week. The health policy briefing recaps the previous week and previews the week ahead. It alerts clients to upcoming congressional hearings, newly introduced bills, regulatory announcements, and implementation activity related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and other health laws.


WH Opioid Commission Approves Final Report

The White House Commission on Opioids released its final report containing a series of more than 50 recommendations to combat the opioid epidemic. The report does not request any new spending but acknowledges the importance of increased funding to implement the recommendations. Among the recommendations contained in the report, the Commission urges:

  • Increased access to addiction therapy, recovery programs, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT);
  • Expansion of first responders’ ability to administer naloxone;
  • Increased oversight by the Department of Labor over health plan compliance with parity laws;
  • Upgrading of drug abuse programs taught in schools;
  • Removal of questions about pain from patient satisfaction surveys for physicians and hospitals;
  • Consideration by the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) of the dose and duration for specific indications, as well as the possibility of issues like misuse and diversion, during the drug approval process;
  • Passage of the bipartisan Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Act (S. 778), which would tied federal funding to the required use of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs);
  • An increase in federal sentencing penalties for the trafficking of the synthetic opioid fentanyl;
  • Consideration by lawmakers of what information patients should receive before being prescribed an opioid for chronic pain;
  • Establishment of drug courts in every judicial district nationwide; those violating their probation through substance use be sent to a drug court and not prison;
  • Establishment of a coordinated system by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to track all relevant federally funded initiatives in order to invest in the most effective programs;
  • A White House funded multiplatform media campaign addressing the danger of substance use and opioids, as well as the stigma around addiction; and
  • The development of a national curriculum and standard of care by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for the prescribing of prescription painkillers.

In related news, the FDA has scheduled an upcoming meeting to explore the agency’s existing authorities to regulate how opioid products are packaged, stored, and discarded in order to improve patient safety. Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stated that the FDA is considering innovations such as packaging that limits the number of pills dispensed or allows providers or family members to track the number of doses that have been taken. The Packaging: Abuse-Deterrent Strategies (PADS) Task Force meeting will be held December 11-12.

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