Bipartisan Opioid Bill Passes House of Representatives

On June 22, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill designed to tackle the nation’s ongoing opioid addiction and abuse crisis, which has been responsible for tens of thousands of deaths annually since 1999. The bill, approved by an overwhelming margin, will now head to the Senate for amendment and approval.

The legislation proposes removing the limits on prescribing buprenorphine, an opioid-addiction treatment; requiring medical professionals to write electronic prescriptions for Medicare patients; and broadening Medicare coverage of addiction treatment clinics. This bill is one of several dozen passed by the House in June addressing the opioid epidemic.

House leadership celebrated the bill’s passage, with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), saying, “There is no event so joyful, no place so safe, that it is untouched by the drug crisis. If we hope to defeat the deadliest drug crisis in history, we will need the biggest response in history.”

While the bill received widespread bipartisan support, some members of Congress criticized the efforts as insufficient. The ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ), argued that the bill made only “incremental changes” to government policy and that it “does not adequately deal with the magnitude of the crisis.” Democrats were unsuccessful in amending the bill to add $1 billion per year to fight addiction.

The bills face uncertain prospects in the U.S. Senate, which has already initiated its own efforts to address the opioid crisis.

Source: The Hill, June 22, 2018.