According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted in April of this year, when respondents were asked about the most serious health issues affecting U.S. residents, heroin abuse was ranked second only to cancer. Forty-four percent knew someone who had been addicted to prescription painkillers. The same poll found that more than 60% feel that the Federal and State governments are not doing enough to combat prescription opioid and heroin addiction.
Apparently, Congress has agreed. The House of Representatives just passed legislation to battle painkiller abuse and heroin addiction. This includes 18 bills focused on opioid addiction, treatment and prevention. However, the White House emphasized that legislation alone will not accomplish much without money. Obama has requested 1.1 billion to fight drug addiction. The legislation authorizes $725 million for Federal grants but does not actually allocate funds. Congressional Democrats introduced an amendment to provide $600 million in emergency funding, but the amendment was blocked. Republicans prefer to wait until Congress passes the 2017 funding bills for Federal Agencies. House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., criticized the Republicans in both the Senate and the House for failing to add funds, saying that it could undermine the success of the effort.
When the Kaiser poll respondents were asked what policy efforts might be the most effective at combatting the epidemic, the majority were in support of increasing pain management training, increasing access to treatment programs, public education and awareness programs, more research about pain management, and monitoring doctors’ prescribing habits.
The House bills include allowing patients to only partially fill opioid prescriptions, requiring the Food and Drug Administration to work with expert advisory committees before approving opioid products and drug labels, and expanding residential treatment programs for pregnant and postpartum opioid addicts. These bills will become part of the Senate-passed Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and then the two chambers will form a committee to work out the differences in the legislation.