The Story: The Senate on March 17 passed S. 483, the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016, legislation that would promote collaboration among government agencies and healthcare stakeholders to ensure patients have access to legitimately needed drugs, while also preventing diversion and abuse of prescription drugs.

The legislation encourages support of policies that would combat drug abuse while maintaining patient access…

The Specifics

The legislation encourages support of policies that would combat drug abuse while maintaining patient access by directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to collaborate with the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration—in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Veterans Affairs—to identify patient access barriers to legitimately needed medications and issues surrounding diversion of controlled substances. The legislation would also require consultation with patient and provider groups—including pharmacies—among other stakeholders.

The Background

NACDS has long advocated for more collaboration among federal agencies to tackle the issue and on February 29, NACDS sent a clear message in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) urging support for the legislation. NACDS President & CEO Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE, said in the letter, “We appreciate the recognition of pharmacies as critical stakeholders in efforts to prevent prescription drug diversion and abuse.

What Else?

According to NACDS opinion research conducted this summer, likely voters understand the complexity of the issues, with nearly 8-in-10 respondents agreeing with the statement: “Pharmacies have a dual role when it comes to battling prescription drug abuse: They have to be part of the solution by working with law enforcement officials to stop prescription drug abuse, but they also have to maintain their responsibilities to patients by making sure they receive the medications they legitimately need.”

The Upshot 

The House of Representatives passed its similar version of the legislation, H.R. 471, in April 2015. In order to be signed into law, the House and Senate will need to pass identical language either as a stand-alone bill or as a larger piece of legislation. NACDS is hopeful the House will act soon to approve the legislation.