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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

House Passes Legislation to Strengthen Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs

September 10, 2015 | Opioid and Heroin Epidemic | Comments
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The U.S. House this week voted to reauthorize a program that helps states monitor the dispensing of opioid painkillers and other controlled substances. First established in 2005, the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program uses prescribing data to track potentially problematic patterns in the use and/or prescribing of these drugs.

The bipartisan National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1725) authorizes $10 million annually from 2016 through 2020 for states’ Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs. It would also modify the program by requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee efforts to improve the interoperability of systems and data sharing among states, the District of Columbia and territories. States would be required to ensure proper use of monitoring systems among prescribers and drug dispensers and to facilitate collaboration with substance abuse agencies and addiction treatment services.

The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program was enacted in 2005 and received $50 million for its operations through 2010. The program was never reauthorized and last received $2 million in fiscal year 2010. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is responsible for administering the program.

“The reauthorization of NASPER would allow SAMHSA to provide grants to states for the establishment, implementation, and improvement of PDMPs, offering timely access to accurate prescription information,” said bill sponsor Ed Whitfield (R-KY), in a statement following committee approval of the bill. Whitfield also sponsored the 2005 law.

According to the Congressional Research Service, each year nearly 15,000 overdose deaths are attributed to prescription pain relievers—more than heroin and cocaine combined. Prescription painkillers are now the foremast Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs have the potential to identify and take action to reduce inappropriate and illegal prescribing.

H.R. 1725 now goes to the Senate, where it has been referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. A similar bipartisan Senate bill has not yet been taken up by the committee.