Two House committees recently approved bills targeting prescription opioid abuse as lawmakers signaled their intent to pass legislation addressing patient safety and addiction treatment. The AAFP now has weighed in on a number of those measures.
The AAFP advised(2 page PDF) members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee of its support for four bills the committee was considering but expressed serious concerns about a fifth bill.
Board Chair Robert Wergin, M.D., of Milford, Neb., wrote in an April 22 letter that the Academy backs action to cover expanding access for patient care and protection for qualified individuals who prescribe opioids.
"The AAFP is deeply concerned that the abuse of heroin and prescription opioid painkillers is having a devastating effect on public health and safety in our communities," the letter reads.
One bill, the Opioid Use Disorder Treatment Expansion and Modernization Act, would increase the maximum number of patients for whom an individual physician can provide medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction from 100 to 250. The Academy strongly supports the measure.
"Qualified, willing physicians should be allowed to treat as many as 250 patients as called for in the … draft legislation," the letter states.
- The AAFP recently advised members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee of its support for several pending bills that address opioid abuse.
- The AAFP did not support one bill calling for creation of a federal task force to review and modify "best practices" regarding pain medication prescriptions.
- The AAFP agreed that it is appropriate to address the opioid addiction problem through legislation but cautioned that lawmakers need to be mindful that an appropriate level of funding to implement related solutions also is needed.
Another bill, the Reducing Unused Medications Act, clarifies under what circumstances a patient could initially choose to have a prescription partially filled, returning for more only if needed. This measure is designed to limit the amount of unused pills in an individual's possession and reduce the chance that medication could be obtained by another individual inappropriately.
"We agree that partial fill legislation is a wise public policy intervention that would allow the patient to elect to receive a portion of a prescription, and return for either a portion of, or the remainder of the prescription, if the pain persists," the letter states.
Noting its support for wider use of naloxone in treating opioid addiction, the AAFP also pledged support for a bill known as Lali's Law that would authorize federal grants to states to promote and monitor naloxone prescriptions.
A fourth bill, the John Thomas Decker Act, calls on the CDC to study what resources are available to young athletes to educate them about the hazards of opioid use and abuse, non-opioid treatment options that are available to them, and how to seek addiction treatment.
The AAFP notified the committee that it does not support a bill calling for creation of a federal task force to review and modify "best practices" regarding pain medication prescriptions. Such a measure could interfere with a physician's ability to make the necessary medical determination regarding a patient's needs, said Wergin in his letter.
"The AAFP opposes action that limits patients' access to pharmaceuticals prescribed by a physician using appropriate clinical training and knowledge," the letter states. "Family physicians and other primary care clinicians play a vital role in effective pain management, which could include the prescribing of opioid analgesics."
In a bill approved by the House Judiciary Committee called the Good Samaritan Assessment Act, the Government Accountability Office would be charged with reviewing state and local laws that offer protection from criminal liability to caregivers, law enforcement and emergency responders who administer overdose reversal drugs in response to an overdose. The AAFP supports Good Samaritan laws.
Yet another bill approved by the Judiciary Committee, the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act, would provide $103 million in funding to manage grants for criminal justice programs such as law enforcement training, emergency team support and residential addiction treatment.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said legislation addressing prescription drug abuse will be taken up on the House floor during the week of May 9, with a possibility that the various pieces of legislation could be wrapped into a single bill. Many of the bills under consideration have bipartisan support.
The AAFP agreed that it is appropriate to address the opioid addiction problem through legislation but cautioned that lawmakers need to be mindful that an appropriate level of funding to implement related solutions also is needed.
"While we agree that policy changes such as those being developed are needed, we are concerned that the resources available are insufficient to have a meaningful impact on a national scale," the letter states.
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