An indication that some think the federal government has gone too far in its efforts to rein in prescription drug abuse may have come today when the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act.
The bill would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to work jointly with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Office of National Drug Control Policy to assess obstacles to legitimate patient access to controlled substances, and to identify how collaboration between agencies and stakeholders can benefit patients and prevent diversion and abuse of prescription drugs.
The DEA ruled last October to change hydrocodone combination products from Schedule III to a stricter Schedule II which has led to some access issues for chronic pain sufferers.
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) and the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) are among those praising the bill.
“Prescription drug abuse, addiction and patient access to medically-necessary medications are complex issues that are not mutually exclusive. Addressing one problem can lead to unintended consequences. That’s why the passage of H.R. 471 today is paramount: it looks at the big picture and seeks to bring together all stakeholders – patients, law enforcement, pharmacy, prescribers and others – to find the best solution to prevent abuse and addiction and ensure that patients have access to their medications,” said NACDS President and CEO Steve Anderson.
“NCPA supports this legislation in the hope that it can help achieve a better balance to reduce prescription drug abuse while ensuring those patients with chronic, debilitating pain have access to essential medications,” added NCPA DEO B. Douglas Hoey.
“Currently the state of federal law enforcement coordination and communication with private health care stakeholders is woefully inadequate. As a result, patients with legitimate medical needs and community pharmacists experience the collateral damage of blunt-force tactics such as arbitrary quotas on supplies of controlled substances and abrupt supply cut-offs,” he added.
The bill (HR 471), which now moves onto the U.S. Senate for consideration, was introduced by Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Tom Marino (R-Pa.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.).