United States House of Representatives Approves Opioid Bill Package

WASHINGTON, DC – This week the United States House of Representatives passed a bipartisan package of bills designed to fight America's growing epidemic of opioid abuse and misuse. The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) worked closely with House staff and committees to identify ways that pharmacists and other members of the health care team can help meet the needs of patients as well as address the crisis facing families, communities and our Nation.

The bill package includes provisions to fund efforts that increase the development of interoperable prescription drug monitoring programs and create an interagency task force that would identify best practices for the treatment of acute and chronic pain.

“Pharmacists are an important, but often an underutilized resource in the fight against prescription drug abuse,” said Thomas Menighan, BSPharm, MBA, ScD (Hon), FAPhA, APhA Executive Vice President and CEO. “Pharmacists work closely with patients to provide education about pain medications, improve pain management and monitor for signs of abuse, misuse and overdose.”

The House package includes a total of 18 bills that focus on opioid and prescription drug addiction, treatment and prevention.

Pharmacists, as medication experts on care teams, provide valuable insight to treatment decisions, including those related to initiating, monitoring, or discontinuing opioids. Pharmacists are involved in tapering of pain medications, assisting in dosing decisions, referring patients to and working in medication assisted treatment programs, and furnishing naloxone where authorized.

“Research has demonstrated, and the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services has recognized, that a trust-based relationship between a patient and pharmacist is an important component of care,” Menighan stated. “Given the relationship between mental health, chronic pain and substance abuse, fostering relationships between an at-risk patient and their providers becomes even more important.”

Each day, roughly 44 people in the U.S. die from an overdose of prescription painkillers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death, surpassing car crashes, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) estimates that there are 100 million Americans living with chronic pain—a number that does not include the additional 46 million individuals the CDC itself estimates suffer from acute pain due to surgery.

With the Senate and House passing their own versions of opioid abuse and misuse legislation, the bills must be reconciled through the formation of a conference committee. The committee will work on a final prescription drug abuse package that can be passed by Congress and signed by the President.

CONTACT: Chad Clinton

202.429.7558; cclinton@aphanet.org

About the American Pharmacists Association
The American Pharmacists Association, founded in 1852 as the American Pharmaceutical Association, is a 501 (c)(6) organization, representing more than 63,000 practicing pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists, student pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and others interested in advancing the profession. APhA, dedicated to helping all pharmacists improve medication use and advance patient care, is the first-established and largest association of pharmacists in the United States. For more information, please visit www.pharmacist.com.