GOP chairman introduces draft bills to curb opioid use

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Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) released discussion drafts Monday of legislation aimed at curbing the overprescribing of opioids and stopping a powerful synthetic opioid from coming into the country illegally.

The draft bills are aimed at bolstering the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) capacity to respond to the opioid crisis. They come as the Senate Health Committee is working to begin marking up legislation this spring to combat the opioid crisis, which is killing more people per year than vehicle crashes.


One of the draft bills would let the FDA require drug manufacturers to package certain opioids in set doses, known as “blister packs,” aimed at making it easier for a doctor to write a smaller prescription and for pharmacists to fill it. The legislation also targets making it easier to dispose of those packages.

The other draft legislation would ensure the FDA can spend the $94 million included in the spending bill passed last week to upgrade equipment at the border, boost laboratory capacity and improve the infrastructure to better seize illegal drugs at the border. This includes the powerful synthetic drug fentanyl, which is up to 50 times more potent than heroin and is contributing to nearly half of deaths involving opioids.

The Senate Health Committee has held six bipartisan hearings since October on the opioid epidemic and is one such panel working to send legislation to address the crisis to President Trump.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a series of legislative hearings with the goal of sending legislation to the House floor by Memorial Day weekend. Last month, a bipartisan group of eight senators introduced a follow up bill to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which passed in 2016, dubbed “CARA 2.0.”

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