House Dems to examine pharmaceutical bills

The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee will meet Thursday to examine two separate bills designed to rein in prescription drug abuse, the panel announced Tuesday.

The first proposal — the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Drug Reporting Act (NASPER) — would help states establish, or build on, programs that monitor prescription drug activity in hopes of preventing abuse and overdoses. The bipartisan bill would provide $55 million during the next five years for states to operate a central prescription-drug database fed by providers who dispense certain controlled substances.

The second — the Safe Drug Disposal Act — is designed to do just that, providing a pathway for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to work with state and local authorities to get expired or unwanted prescriptions out of medicine cabinets safely. A spokesman for the bill's sponsor, Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) cautioned Tuesday that the language of the bill is still being finalized in hopes of winning bipartisan support, and there's a chance the bill won't be ready for Thursday's hearing despite the panel's announcement.

Scheduled to testify Thursday are Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and Joseph Rannazzisi, deputy assistant administrator at the DEA. 

This post was updated at 3:57 p.m.