A U.S. House committee has scheduled a two-day legislative hearing for the week of March 19 to consider 25 bills intended to address the opioid addiction epidemic. The House Energy and Commerce Committee will focus on a range of public health and prevention strategies to combat the epidemic, with the goal of getting bipartisan legislation to the House floor by Memorial Day.
One bill, introduced by Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to create a public electronic database of information on current, nationwide efforts to combat the 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,” Latta told the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee last fall.
Latta said his bill will also charge HHS with evaluating “myriad issues relating to pain management, addiction, prescription guidelines, treatments, trends and patterns, and effective solutions” used across the country. He contends that this database will “allow for easier access to information, funding streams and relevant data
Another bill would help the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with a public-private research initiative it launched last year. It will focus on new and innovative medications and biologics to treat opioid addiction and for overdose prevention and reversal; safe, effective, and non-addictive strategies to manage chronic pain; and the neurobiology of chronic pain.
Some of the bills focus on the Food and Drug Administration, such as one directing the agency to provide clearer data collection guidelines to help claims for products that could be used in place of an opioid. Another measure seeks to clarify the FDA’s authority to take into account misuse or abuse when approving an opioid.
Last fall, the FDA notified 74 manufacturers of immediate-release opioid analgesics intended for outpatient use that their drugs will now be subject to a more stringent set of requirements under a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS). The REMS requires that training be made available to health care providers who prescribe IR opioids, including training on safe prescribing practices and consideration of non-opioid alternatives.
On a call with reporters, a committee aide said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has been “highly engaged” in the process and met with panel Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Health Subcommittee Chairman Michael Burgess (R-Texas).
Other bills include directing the Health and Human Services Department to create an electronic database on nationwide strategies to combat the crisis and helping hospitals develop protocols for discharging patients who had an opioid overdose, and more. Another measure aims to help the National Institutes of Health (NIH) research non-addictive medications for pain.
The hearing on the 25 bills is the second in the panel’s series on the opioid epidemic, the third of which will focus on insurance coverage and treatment. The first examined eight on patient safety and enforcement-related measures.
Meanwhile, in the Senate, a bipartisan group of eight senators released a follow up to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), titled CARA 2.0, in late February. The Senate Health Committee has been holding a series of hearings on the opioid epidemic and wants to craft legislation to combat the crisis.
An aide to the committee told TheHill.com that many of the bills grew out of lawmaker suggestions made at a member day the committee held last October.
A second committee aide pointed to a member day the panel had in October, saying many of the ideas for bills spawned from lawmaker suggestions there. The aide said “these bills and this process is a uniquely House process. We’re excited to see what the Senate and the administration are doing and we’re looking forward to working together with them.”
Also. the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS) announced a hearing for Tuesday, March 20 on “The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Role in Combating the Opioid Epidemic.”