Congress Pursuing Multiple Bills to Curb Opioid Epidemic

  • by AGD Washington Advocacy Representative
  • Mar 7, 2018

A bipartisan group of senators has introduced legislation that would add $1 billion to combat the opioid epidemic. The bill, known as CARA 2.0, is a follow up to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act passed in 2016. It aims to impose new rules to restrict access to opioids and open up access for opioid addiction treatment. The bill would also:

  • Establish a three-day limit on initial opioid prescriptions for acute pain, with exceptions for chronic pain;
  • Require doctors and pharmacists to use prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) before prescribing or dispensing opioids;
  • Permanently let physician assistants and nurses prescribe buprenorphine, a highly effective treatment for opioid addiction, with guidance from a qualified physician;
  • Increase civil and criminal penalties for opioid manufacturers if they fail to report suspicious orders or don’t do enough to prevent diversion; and
  • Create a national standard for addiction recovery housing.

It is unknown at this time if CARA 2.0 will pass. Given that it calls for new funding and Congress is currently working on a large budget measure, it’s possible that the bill or parts of it will be rolled into the budget package.

The House is also pursuing a slew of bills to tackle the epidemic. As part of this effort, the House held a series of hearings in late February, with the first focusing on legislation to expand the attorney general’s authority to ban potential dangerous new drugs such as synthetic opioids. The next hearing focused on a bill meant to help doctors more easily access the medical records of patients with a history of drug abuse. Congressional aides have told reporters that the House could vote on many of its opioid bills as early as May.

Impact on General Dentistry: The AGD is currently reviewing the opioid bills put forward in the House and Senate. In the interim, the AGD will continue to watch Congressional efforts to curb opioid abuse as well as seek ways to engage policy makers on policy proposals that discourage misuse, without undermining patient care.