A bipartisan bill that would fund state-level education and treatment programs for opioid addiction, as well as strengthen prescription monitoring programs easily passed a Senate committee by voice vote Thursday.
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act pg 2015, which was first introduced in 2014, includes many concepts President Barack Obama incorporated into his fiscal 2017 budget request, released Tuesday.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said in a press conference that she would be proposing an amendment to the bill for $600 billion in emergency funding to address the opioid crisis.
Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday spoke about the dire need for quick action to combat the opioid overuse epidemic that has swept the country.
“The industry has to step up and accept their share of the responsibility here,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said. “The doctors have to step up.”
At a concurrent Senate hearing on the HHS 2017 budget, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced that the bill had moved forward with virtually no opposition.
“That doesn't happen around here,” he said. “This is one that could actually get done.”
HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who testified at the budget hearing, said she was glad to hear the bill had been approved by the committee, and said the administration will continue to work with Congress on the issue.
In response to a question from Portman about the distribution of buprenorphine, which helps treat opioid addiction, Burwell said staff are working on administrative action that would allow doctors to prescribe the drug to more patients. She said she expects that action to happen this year. The White House budget also calls for allowing some mid-level practitioners to prescribe the drug.
Also Thursday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), introduced a bill that would add language about addiction services to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's mission statement.
Manchin currently has a hold on the nomination of Dr. Robert Califf, the FDA's current deputy commissioner for medical products and tobacco to head the agency. Manchin says the FDA has taken insufficient action on the opioid overuse epidemic.
Manchin's bill would add the following language: “The FDA is also responsible for protecting the public health by strongly considering the danger of addiction and overdose death associated with prescription opioid medications when approving these medications and when regulating the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of opioid medications.''