Lawmakers work to get VA on board prescription drug monitoring effort

Lawmakers are working with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to integrate it into a prescription drug monitoring program, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said Tuesday morning. Brown is expected to introduce legislation reauthorizing the program shortly, along with Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.); Reps. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) and Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) are championing it in the House.

Brown made the comments in his address to the annual meeting of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP), which is pressing lawmakers to reauthorize the drug monitoring program and allocate $55 million over the next five years. The program, known as the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting (NASPER), authorizes state grants to monitor drug prescriptions so they can combat the epidemic of pharmaceutical abuse by informing physicians and pharmacists of patients' prescription records. The program was created in 2005 but has struggled to secure funding because of competing appropriations to a Department of Justice monitoring program sponsored by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.).

Brown also got a standing ovation when he promised to circulate a "Dear Colleague" letter to lawmakers asking them to support the appointment of practicing clinicians to the panel that will compare the effectiveness and cost of medical procedures. ASIPP is worried that the panel will include too many statisticians who may not have detailed knowledge of various procedures that physicians perform.