Negotiators for the House and Senate smoothed out the differences between their two versions on the massive opioid package that lawmakers are banking on as a winning talking point before the midterms. Not included in the final version of the agreement was pharma's push to use the legislation to roll back a provision that puts them on the hook for covering more drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries. News on the crisis comes out of Minnesota, D.C., and New Jersey, as well.
Congress Reaches Final Deal To Address Opioid Crisis
House and Senate negotiators late Tuesday reached a final agreement on a bill addressing the opioid crisis following weeks of talks and a failed bid to include $4 billion worth of unrelated policy changes favorable to the pharmaceutical industry. The bipartisan bill, H.R. 6 (115), attempts to address nearly every aspect of the public health epidemic, from expanding access to addiction treatment and prevention programs to beefing up law enforcement efforts to curtail the trafficking of illegal drugs. (Ehley, Karlin-Smith and Tahir, 9/25)
Lawmakers Unveil Massive Bipartisan Bill Aimed At Fighting Opioid Crisis
Aside from opioid policy, drug companies also failed in an intense lobbying push to attach a provision to the bill easing their costs in Medicare. The change would have rolled back a provision from February’s budget deal that raised drugmakers costs in Medicare’s coverage gap, known as the donut hole. Drug pricing groups and some Democrats came out strongly against including the provision in the opioids bill, saying it was a “handout” to Pharma. (Sullivan, 9/25)
Senate, House Conferees Release Text Of Opioid Agreement
“Once signed into law, this legislation sends help to our communities fighting on the front lines of the crisis and to the millions of families affected by opioid use disorders,” a bipartisan, bicameral committee of nine lawmakers involved in leading the negotiations said in a statement Tuesday night. The conferees included Alexander and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore. They said the bill took months of bipartisan work by eight House committees and five Senate committees. The House originally passed its own package (HR 6) in late June. The agreement includes measures to develop new nonaddictive painkillers and to overhaul prescription drug monitoring programs. It would also reauthorize the Office of National Drug Control Policy. (Raman, 9/25)
Drug Treatment Programs And Jails Work Together To Help Inmates
Amidst an opioid overdose epidemic that now claims almost 50,000 lives each year in the United States and rising rates of meth use, county jails and treatment programs have started to work more closely together. Teen Challenge is just one organization working directly with inmates in Minnesota's 87 counties to try to help get inmates access to treatment, and to avoid the danger of overdose faced by people leaving jail. (Collins, 9/25)
The Washington Post:
Bowser Backs Bill Penalizing Dealers Of Synthetic Drugs As Overdoses Spike In D.C.
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) is proposing emergency legislation to crack down on drug dealers amid a spike in synthetic marijuana overdoses while a permanent version of the bill makes its way through the D.C. Council. D.C. fire department medics treated or transported more than 1,600 people for symptoms consistent with synthetic drug overdoses between July 14 and Sunday, according to city officials. (Nirappil, 9/25)
New Jersey Opioid Deaths Surge Even After Prescriptions Decline
Opioid overdose deaths rose 24 percent in New Jersey last year, even after doctors wrote fewer prescriptions, according to the state medical examiner’s office. In all, 2,750 painkiller-related deaths were reported in 2017, or about eight a day. Just over half were attributed to fentanyl and its analogues, or drugs engineered to mimic its extreme potency in tiny doses. Heroin-related fatalities dropped to 41 percent of the total, from 61 percent in 2016. (Young, 9/25)
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