Washington DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that he has helped to launch a bipartisan working group on the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee to tackle the increasing crisis of prescription drug and heroin abuse across the country.
“I’m hopeful this bipartisan working group can reach consensus on an approach that begins to tackle this growing problem,” Senator Casey said. “Communities across Pennsylvania have struggled with the increase in heroin and prescription drug abuse. As these challenges increase it’s critical that Congress puts in place a commonsense approach to help families and law enforcement. Addiction is a truly terrible disease and we need to confront this challenge in a bipartisan way.”
The approach Casey’s been advocating includes:
• Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) - Prescribers shall check state PDMPs before writing opioid prescriptions, dispensers shall enter opioid prescriptions filled, and PDMPs shall be tied into electronic prescribing and electronic health records and interoperable across state lines for accurate, timely and confidential information.
• Training - Prescribers with DEA registrations shall attest to continuing medical education. A HRSA grant program would allow states to evaluate state boards’ review and consideration of expanding prescriptive privileges for advanced practice nurses and physician’s assistants for prescription drug abuse control with specific drugs (e.g. buprenorphine), as appropriate with state scope of practice rules.
• Practice - Health care prescribers shall increasingly conduct appropriate patient screening for potential drug misuse or abuse. An HHS grant program would increase training for behavioral screening, referral and brief intervention for treatment.
• Pilot Project – This one-year pilot would provide grants to states to develop a standardized peer review process and methodology to review and evaluate prescribing and pharmacy dispensing patterns, through a review of PDMPs in those states.
• FDA Review of Naloxone – FDA will be required to review the status of naloxone (a drug that can reverse a heroin overdose) as a prescription drug, and consider whether or not it would be appropriate to make it available behind-the-counter, but without a prescription.
• Drug disposal - HHS shall encourage states and counties to increase ongoing opportunities for proper medication disposal.
• GAO Report – GAO will study prescription drug abuse programs and policies in federal agencies and best practices regarding states’ programs in this area, and make recommendations to Congress on ways to reduce prescription drug abuse.