Bennet Applauds Senate Passage of Opioids Package, Calls for More Action

Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today applauded Senate passage of the Opioid Crisis Response Act, which includes four Bennet-sponsored provisions, and called on Congress to do more to address the increasing opioid epidemic.

“Our work on opioids in Washington should reflect the magnitude of the crisis ravaging communities across our country,” said Bennet. “The measures passed today are a step in the right direction, but they are not enough. Colorado’s leadership is evident in programs like the Opioid Safety Collaborative Pilot, which this legislation will expand. We must keep working on meaningful policies to limit the flow of opioids while investing in resources to treat those struggling with substance use disorders.”

Through his roles on the Senate Committees on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) and Finance, Bennet secured four provisions in the opioid package:

The Advancing Innovation in Alternative Pain and Addiction Therapies Act expedites the approval of non-opioid alternatives, both for pain management and for patients with an opioid use disorder, so they can access innovative treatments more quickly. The Bennet-Hatch legislation instructs the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to clarify how the Breakthrough Designation and Accelerated Approval—both which create expedited pathways for approval—apply to non-addictive pain medications and treatments for substance use disorders.

The Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO) in the Emergency Department funds new approaches for decreasing opioid use. Earlier this year, the HELP Committee passed a Bennet amendment that provides $5 million each year through 2023 to support hospitals and emergency departments as they establish protocols on prescribing alternatives to opioids for pain management. As a first line of defense against the opioid epidemic, emergency rooms are well positioned to serve as laboratories of innovation. At the same time, because of the short-term nature of the care they provide, emergency rooms are often highly susceptible to “doctor shopping,” where patients seek to obtain multiple prescriptions for misuse or abuse. This funding expands upon pilot programs that address this challenge, such as the Colorado Opioid Safety Collaborative Pilot that decreased emergency department opioid prescribing by 36 percent in just six months.

“Emergency physicians are on the front line of medicine and committed to proactively caring for our patients and communities in the midst of our nation’s opioid crisis,” said Don Stader, Associate Medical Director & Emergency Physician at Swedish Medical Center. “Across the country, several innovative Emergency Departments have moved toward alternative to opioids programs, which we firmly believe will play a key role in addressing this crisis. We thank Senator Bennet for his leadership to include this innovative program in the opioids package, and we now urge Congress to ensure appropriate resources are provided to enable this proven model’s expansion to more communities across the country.”

The Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act aims to reduce the number of opioids obtained through fraudulent prescriptions or doctor shopping. The legislation requires health care providers to use electronic prescribing for controlled substances for Medicare Part D transactions beginning in 2021. Electronic prescriptions will generate real-time information on opioid use and streamline prescribing for both providers and their patients. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this provision will save taxpayers $250 million.

The Assessing Barriers to Opioid Use Disorder Treatment Act requires the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on barriers that prevent physicians from obtaining opioid addiction treatments that they administer in their office. Distribution practices will be evaluated on three criteria: how the model affects Medicaid beneficiaries’ access to treatments for substance use disorders; the cost to Medicaid; and the effect of the model on providers’ willingness to administer or prescribe these treatments.