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Your source for the latest updates from Capitol Hill. We translate policy into practice so you can learn how policy trends will affect your work and how best to prepare.

Jacquelyn Sommer

National Council for Behavioral Health

Success of CARA Inspires More Addiction Legislation

July 21, 2016 | Addictions | Comments
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A day after congress passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), Senators Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced legislation that would encourage providers to use the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP).  The Prescription Drug Monitoring Act would limit state grants directed to combat opioid use to states that require prescribers to use a PDMP.

The Prescription Drug Monitoring Act would decrease access to opioids by encouraging providers and pharmacies to utilize the PDMP which was first established in 2005.  The PDMP uses prescribing data to track potentially problematic patterns in the use and/or prescribing of opioid painkillers and other controlled substances.  Forty-nine states and Washington, D.C. have PDMPs, however different states have different requirements for utilization and most systems do not communicate across state lines.

This is not the first time legislation has been introduced to bolster usage and interoperability of the PDMP.  Last year, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) re-introduced 2013 legislation that would have increased inter-state PDMP data sharing and required information be kept up-to-date.  Additionally CARA included incentives for using the PDMP to help identify illegal activity and divert those identified into treatment.  Although there is clear support for expanding use of the PDMP, legislation has faced opposition from physicians who claim the system can be cumbersome and is not well maintained.  However, the passage of CARA signals that there is a strong bipartisan consensus that action is needed to combat the opioid epidemic.

Last week, Senator Klobuchar spoke on the Senate floor about building on the success of CARA to pass additional opioid legislation.  “As a former prosecutor, I have witnessed firsthand the devastation caused by opioid abuse in communities across the country. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act is an important step to get families and communities the resources needed to save lives and reverse this deadly trend. Still, there is more work to do to fund these initiatives and strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs,” Senator Klobuchar said. “The bill I have introduced today – the Prescription Drug Monitoring Act – would require states to have prescription drug monitoring programs that use best practices, curbing the kind of doctor shopping that facilitates addiction. In May, I heard from a patient at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation treatment center who filled 108 prescriptions for painkillers from more than 85 different prescribers. We know that opioid addiction too often begins with the abuse of legal prescription painkillers. And with this bill, we can do something about that.”