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HELP Releases Bipartisan Draft Opioid Legislation

Leadership of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee released a bipartisan discussion draft of legislation aimed at combating the opioid epidemic and improving data sharing between states. The proposal is the result of six hearings held by the Committee this Congress to examine how the federal government can better partner with states and communities dealing with the opioid crisis. A full summary of the Opioid Crisis Response Act can be found here. Notably, the bill will

  • Improve the regulatory pathway to develop non-addictive and non-opioid painkillers and other strategies to prevent and treat substance use disorders through additional flexibility for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA);
  • Clarify FDA authority to require manufacturers to package opioids in smaller quantities and to require manufacturers to give patients simple and safe options to dispose of unused opioids;
  • Improve the detection and seizure of illegal drugs at the border through stronger FDA and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) coordination;
  • Support improvement of state prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) and encourage state data sharing on opioid prescribing and dispensing;
  • Update how certain grants are administered so as to increase allotments for states hit hardest by the crisis and allow states to use funding until it runs out, instead of requiring it to be spent during a single year;
  • Require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to examine the impact of state laws that limit the length and dosage of opioid prescriptions; and
  • Improve access to telemedicine and addiction treatment in rural and underserved areas.
The Committee will hold a hearing on the draft legislation on April 11, and requests comments on the bill from interested stakeholders be sent to HelpFightsOpioids@help. senate.gov by the date of the hearing. Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) hopes to markup the legislation this spring.

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