Matthew Cartwright

07/21/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/21/2020 12:53

Rep. Cartwright, Sen. Durbin Introduce Legislation to Combat Opioid Addiction

Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA-08) and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced the Addiction Prevention and Responsible Opioid Practices Act to rein in the excessive volume of addictive opioids on the market and increase access to mental health and substance use disorder services.

'The opioid epidemic continues to ravage communities and devastate families across the country. Sadly, the pandemic seems to be making matters worse,' Cartwright said. 'This legislation calls for a coordinated effort between drug companies, public health officials and the medical community to halt the scourge of opioid addiction in America.'

'Tragically, our nation's opioid epidemic is surging across our communities amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. This legislation holds Big Pharma accountable for fueling this crisis, improves opioid prescribing practices, and dramatically expands treatment-including telehealth services-for people who are battling addiction,' Durbin said.

According to a recent analysis of opioid use in America, 128 people die in the United States each day due to opioid overdose and an estimated 1.7 million Americans suffer from substance use disorders related to prescribed opioid painkillers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that 2019 was the worst year on record for overdose fatalities, and estimates that as many one in four patients who is prescribed painkillers struggles with opioid addiction. Opioid painkiller misuse can also lead to heroin use; 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription painkillers.

The coronavirus pandemic appears to be worsening the opioid addiction crisis. Faced with economic uncertainty, anxiety, and in some cases, isolation, many with substance use disorder are at risk to resume or continue using, and face challenges accessing treatment. The American Medical Association (AMA) reports that over 35 states have seen an increase in opioid-related mortality. This coincides with a decline in harm reduction services, like sterile needle programs and access to naloxone.

The Addiction Prevention and Responsible Opioid Practices Act is a comprehensive approach to preventing and treating addiction. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Improve FDA oversight of opioid painkillers on the market and continuing education for prescribers;
  • Establish training and licensure requirements for pharmaceutical sales representatives who promote opioid painkillers;
  • Require continuing education for medical professionals who prescribe longer-term use of painkillers;
  • Encourage medical schools to responsibly educate future doctors;
  • Strengthen prescription drug monitoring systems to prevent over-prescribing and expand information sharing to identify individuals who may need help;
  • Examine expansion of Medicare coverage for evidence-based alternatives to opioid treatments;
  • Ensure that drug manufacturers are responsible stewards of their products by having them establish a national drug disposal program and help fund substance abuse treatment programs;
  • Expand access to mental health services furnished through telehealth under the Medicare program; and
  • Ensure compliance with mental health and substance use disorder parity requirements.

This legislation is endorsed by the American Public Health Association and Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing.