Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), an original cosponsor of H.R. 592, the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act, submitted a letter for the record to the House Energy and Commerce Committee urging support for the NACDS-backed legislation during this week’s hearing on combating the opioid abuse epidemic.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee held hearings this week to examine the opioid epidemic and possible legislative solutions. The activity concludes a series of hearings that are considered the prelude to imminent legislative action. This week’s hearing, “Combatting the Opioid Crisis: Improving the Ability of Medicare and Medicaid to Provide Care for Patients,” considered bills that would utilize Medicare and Medicaid to help manage the epidemic.

In comments to the Committee, NACDS gave recommendations on policy changes to combat the epidemic. NACDS emphasized the vital role pharmacy can play in curbing prescription opioid abuse and diversion and pointed to the concerted efforts NACDS and member companies are making in finding workable solutions to address prescription drug abuse, while also ensuring legitimate patients are able to access their medications.

NACDS stated that “recognizing the value pharmacists play as a member of the healthcare team and utilizing them at the top of their training would greatly benefit the battle against the opioid crisis.” NACDS noted that despite the potential for pharmacists to improve access and care, current law doesn’t recognize them as providers in the Medicare program. NACDS urged lawmakers to support legislation—H.R.592/S.109, the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act—which would recognize pharmacists as providers in medically underserved areas.

NACDS outlined the many services pharmacists can—and do—provide and also noted the specific ways pharmacists can be effective in battling opioid abuse, including medication assisted treatment (MAT) for people diagnosed with an opioid-use disorder; screenings and immunizations related to Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV; and increased access to naloxone, a lifesaving medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, which the Surgeon General recently urged all Americans to carry.

NACDS also reiterated the effectiveness of solutions included in its policy recommendations to combat the opioid abuse epidemic: electronic prescribing of controlled substances, a nationwide prescription drug monitoring program, and a 7-day supply limit for initial opioid prescriptions issued for acute pain. NACDS also voiced support for the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act (H.R. 3528), which requires electronic prescribing for controlled substances in Medicare Part D.

NACDS has submitted recommendations to the Committee for each of its hearings on finding solutions to the opioid abuse epidemic and is committed to ongoing work with lawmakers and stakeholders on this critical issue.