New Bills to Combat the Opioid Epidemic

opioidThe United States has been in the grips of prescription opioid crisis of epidemic proportions for over a decade. While state and federal governments have worked hard to address the problem which claims thousands of lives every year, there is no question that more can be done – especially now that heroin has sunk its hooks into addicts who struggle to get their hands on prescription narcotics.

The eastern states have been hit especially hard by prescription drug abuse, and the subsequent rise in heroin use. As a result, politicians from both parties in Massachusetts and Kentucky have come together to advance a number of bills to combat the crisis facing America, MassLive reports. The new legislative measures address:

  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)
  • Opioid Overdoses
  • FDA Accountability
  • Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs)

Protect Our Infants Act

NAS is a condition which can occur when newborns are exposed to opioids in utero. Babies born with the condition exhibit signs of withdrawal and require extra attention and extended stays in the hospital. The Protect Our Infants Act was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass. and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., according to the article.

Under the bill, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would be required to conduct research and coordinate efforts, helping state agencies collect data on NAS.

Opioid Overdose Reduction Act

Over the last few years, first responders have been granted greater access to the opioid overdose antidote drug naloxone. If administered in a timely manner, the drug has the power to reverse the life threatening effects of opioid overdoses. In some states and municipalities, addicts and their loved ones can acquire naloxone without a prescription.

The Opioid Overdose Reduction Act was brought forward by U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass. and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., the article reports. If passed, the bill would protect doctors, first responders, and others trained to administer naloxone from civil liability.

“No one should be afraid to save a life because of a lawsuit,” U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass. said in a statement.

FDA Accountability for Public Safety Act

In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the pure-hydrocodone drug Zohydro, despite an advisory panel voting against the approval. A number of lawmakers and experts in the field of addiction were outraged by the approval, believing the drug was counter public safety. The FDA Accountability for Public Safety Act seeks to limit the FDA’s ability to approve opioid drugs against the recommendations of experts on advisory committees, according to the article.

National All-Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting (NASPER) Reauthorization

In the fight against doctor shopping, PDMPs have proven vital for informing doctors when patients are receiving opioids from other physicians. However, many state programs, including Massachusetts, have been operating without funding. With bipartisan support, a bill has been put forward to reauthorize NASPER. If passed, it would provide states with the crucial funding needed to maintain, improve, and expand PDMPs.

This program “will empower states and advocates on the front lines of this crisis to build successful (prescription drug monitoring programs) that can communicate across state lines and help identify at-risk behavior—a key first step in fending off addiction before it starts,” said Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass.

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