Arlington, Va. – A report released this week by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that improved communications with pharmacies and other stakeholders can help control prescription drug abuse, while ensuring that patient access to medications is not compromised.

The agency’s report further validates the need for bipartisan, bicameral legislation.

The GAO report examined the interaction between the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and government and industry stakeholders, including pharmacy, in curbing prescription drug abuse and preserving patient access to medications.  Among its findings, the report found that enhanced interaction, communication and guidance for pharmacies and their national associations (i.e. NACDS) can provide a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities to help prevent abuse and diversion under the Controlled Substances Act.

“More DEA communication with registrants could help improve their awareness of various DEA resources, as well as help DEA better understand registrants’ information needs, such as their need for improved guidance,” the GAO report concluded.

NACDS has long-supported the need for collaboration among all stakeholders – government agencies, patient groups, pharmacy, law enforcement – to find solutions that address both prescription drug abuse and patient access.

“We appreciate the thorough review by the GAO of this complex issue.  The agency’s report further validates the need for bipartisan, bicameral legislation,” said NACDS President and CEO Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE. “Prescription drug abuse, addiction and patient access to medically-necessary medications are complex issues that are not mutually exclusive.  Addressing one problem can lead to unintended consequences.”

The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2015 (H.R. 471) passed the U.S. House last April.  The bill would direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to work jointly with the DEA and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to assess obstacles to legitimate patient access to controlled substances, and to identify how collaboration between agencies and stakeholders can benefit patients and prevent diversion and abuse of prescription drugs. The findings and recommendations would then be submitted in a report to Congress.

A similar, bipartisan bill (S. 483) is also under consideration in the U.S. Senate. Both H.R. 471 and S. 483 are endorsed by NACDS.

“Pharmacies play an important role in efforts to prevent prescription drug diversion and abuse, and helping to ensure that patients with legitimate medical needs have the medications they need,” Anderson said.  “We appreciate the opportunities we have had with the DEA to discuss challenges on a variety of issues, and we look forward to continuing an even greater dialogue on these issues moving forward.”