Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) asked Drug Enforcement Administration witnesses about how the agency’s policies are affecting patient access to medications at a House Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on Tuesday. Photo: C-Span
The Story: Congress is asking the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) the right questions about how its policies are affecting patient access to medications.
I believe that a careful balance has to be struck between attacking prescription drug abuse, while not preventing legitimate patients from accessing pain medications.
At a House Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) asked Jack Riley, the DEA’s Acting Deputy Administrator, what effect DEA’s policies are having on access to medications for patients. Chu said, “I believe that a careful balance has to be struck between attacking prescription drug abuse, while not preventing legitimate patients from accessing pain medications.” Chu added that she is a cosponsor of NACDS-backed legislation, H.R. 471, the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, which passed the House in April.
The DEA’s Jack Riley said the agency is very concerned about “patient access at every step,” and is committed to maintaining patient access to medications they legitimately need. Riley also emphasized that the agency has improved its relationship with the healthcare industry, creating a better system of two-way communication with DEA registrants that keeps the healthcare industry apprised of trends the agency observes in prescription drug abuse. Riley said the DEA strives overall for patient access, and safe, accessible medications. Coincidentally, a report by the Government Accountability Office out this week called on the DEA to improve communications with pharmacy and with pharmacy associations, such as NACDS.
NACDS continues to emphasize pharmacy’s role in protecting patient safety; pharmacists’ corresponding responsibility; and support for federal legislation—the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act—that will combat the prescription drug abuse in a real way by getting federal agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services and the DEA to work together to identify obstacles to legitimate patient access to medications, while preventing the diversion and abuse of prescription drugs.
NACDS has long been aware of the challenges pharmacists face in their role as the last line of defense against drug abuse, and is working actively on providing chain pharmacies with the most current information on DEA compliance through new, web-based educational tools for pharmacists and others. The resource—“Satisfying DEA Standards When Dispensing Controlled Substances”—is designed to help identify the red flags pharmacists are expected to detect as frontline healthcare providers when filling prescriptions for controlled substances.
Background on Rep. Judy Chu
Rep. Judy Chu represents California’s 27th Congressional District, which includes 11 NACDS member companies—with 75 pharmacies—that employ 4,370 Californians. Chu serves on the House Judiciary Committee, the House Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations Subcommittee, and the House Small Business Committee, which has oversight of the Small Business Administration. She became the first Chinese American woman elected to the House of Representatives in 2009.