Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) plans to introduce legislation in the House of Representatives that would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to create a public electronic database of information regarding nationwide efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.
“The database would serve as a central location of information for the public and others to track federal funding allocations made available for research and treatment of opioid abuse, find research relating to opioid abuse from all federal agencies, state, local and tribal governments, as well as non-profits, law enforcement, medical experts, public health, educators and research institutes,” testified Latta on Wednesday before the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee.
In addition, Latta told fellow lawmakers that his upcoming bill will charge HHS with evaluating “myriad issues relating to pain management, addiction, prescription guidelines, treatments, trends and patterns, and effective solutions” used across the country.
According to Latta, all these findings would be available in the electronic database, and HHS “would be instructed to offer recommendations for targeted areas of improvement.” He contends that this database will “allow for easier access to information, funding streams and relevant data that can help to combat the opioid abuse epidemic,” which is claiming an average of 91 American lives every day.
“We have run out of time to find a solution to this crisis—we need action now,” Latta concluded.
The purpose of Wednesday’s subcommittee hearing was to receive testimony from more than 50 members of Congress on ways to help solve the national opioid epidemic.
At the hearing, Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) mentioned that she and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) have introduced the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act, which aims to eliminate duplicative prescriptions that fuel the opioid epidemic by requiring electronic prescriptions for controlled substances under Medicare.
“This proposal would ensure that all prescriptions for controlled substances filled through Medicare Part D would be transmitted electronically,” said Clark. “Electronic transmission would help doctors and pharmacists spot patients attempting to doctor shop and would make it more difficult to forge a prescription—all the while saving taxpayer dollars.”
Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine) told the subcommittee that his state has put in place a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) that is “very tough and very effective” in serving as a prescribing history database to help providers flag suspicious medication activity, such as patients who cross state lines for the purpose of doctor shopping.
“In particular, it sets very strict limits on what opioids are prescribed. It mandates the use of this system by prescribers. And, if you are prescribing opioids in the state of Maine, you must check this database on a regular basis to make sure those that are being prescribed should be in fact those that are receiving the painkillers,” said Poliquin.
He added that for “folks that are coming from out of state or paying with cash,” the PDMP also “triggers a review of the program to make sure that these drugs are falling into the hands of the right people.”
In addition, Poliquin—who serves on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs—said that he has joined other House members in co-sponsoring the Veterans Opioid Abuse Prevention Act which was introduced last month.
The bill directs the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs to link VA physicians to a national network of state-run PDMPs, which they would consult before prescribing opioids to veterans. Without the VA’s doctors having this electronic capability, Poliquin contends that patients could cross state lines and fill opioid prescriptions without being detected.
An interim report from the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction recently recommended that the federal government provide funding and technical support to states to improve interstate data sharing between state-based PDMPs to better track prescriptions written for addictive medications.