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Health subcommittee to take up legislation to help providers, pharmacists, combat opioid epidemic

Three upcoming hearings will focus on controlling opioid misuse, public health and prevention and insurance coverage.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

Lawmakers are holding three upcoming hearings focused on legislation to combat the opioid crisis, including requiring provider and pharmacist training and insurance coverage issues. 

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health is expected to ask for more funding than the $6 billion set aside for opioid treatment in the two-year Senate budget deal that averted a government shutdown.

[Also: Senate reaches two-year budget deal that funds community health centers, opioid fight]

The first hearing will focus on the Controlled Substances Act and subsequent hearings expected to be scheduled in March will focus on legislation related to public health and prevention as well as insurance coverage related bills, the committee said.

The hearing at 1 p.m. Wednesday, is "Combating the Opioid Crisis:Helping Communities Balance Enforcement and Patient Safety."  Witnesses include Susan Gibson, deputy assistant attorney for the Diversion Control Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Police Chief Frank Fowler of Syracuse, New York.

[Also: House leaders ask insurers for help in combating opioid crisis]

This is a follow-up on bipartisan work by the Subcommittee on Health on Oct. 11, 2017, which authorized resources to combat the opioid crisis as part of the 21st Century Cures Act.

Bills under consideration Wednesday include H.R. 2063, which would require providers to undergo training as a condition to prescribe or dispense opioids for the treatment of pain. It would require 12 hours of continuing medical education every three years.

H.R. 4275 would train pharmacists on indicators that a prescription is fraudulent or forged and give them the ability to decline to fill controlled substances.

Two proposed bills address telemedicine in treatment. One would give providers a waiver to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine in emergency situations. Another would allow for prescriptions from providers in community mental health or addiction treatment centers.

Other legislation focuses on stopping the importation and trafficking of synthetic drugs such as fentanyl and the safe disposal of unused medicine. 

In 2016, opioid overdose deaths were five times higher than in 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The five states hardest hit are West Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
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