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Senate health committee advances opioid bill

HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander said he would ask Senate leaders to consider the bill this summer.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

Senator Lamar Alexander. Photo by Alex Wong, Getty ImagesSenator Lamar Alexander. Photo by Alex Wong, Getty Images

The Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Tuesday voted unanimously to advance bipartisan opioid legislation.

Among the bill's estimated 40 objectives is the promotion of the development of non-addictive painkillers, limiting the duration of treatment and providing support for states to improve prescription drug monitoring programs to encourage data sharing for providers and pharmacies to determine whether a patient has a history of substance misuse.

[Also: Senate Finance Committee tackles Medicaid, Medicare policy to combat opioid use disorder]

The bill also proposes to increase access to mental health and substance use disorder services and improve the detection and seizure of illegal drugs.

The problem of opioid use disorder is unfortunately, "not something that could be solved by an agency in Washington, D.C.," said HELP Committee Chairman Senator Lamar Alexander.

What the committee can do is take a number of steps, through passage of the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 and other legislation, Alexander said.

"I think the consensus on this committee and from senators who are not on the committee is this epidemic requires an urgent, effective and bipartisan response and I believe in this proposed legislation we offer the framework for that," Alexander said.

The committee voted down an amendment by Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont to fine opioid drug manufacturers for their role in the addition crisis, according to the Washington Examiner.

Alexander said he would ask Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for a time agreement of some point this summer to take up the bill, after it is possibly merged with other bills coming out of the Senate Finance Committee and other committees.

Last week, the Senate Finance Committee examined how changes in Medicare and Medicaid policy and reimbursement could help in the treatment of opioid use disorder.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
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