Arlington, Va. – The U.S. Senate yesterday passed the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016 (S. 483), bringing the bill closer to a trip along Pennsylvania Avenue to President Obama’s desk for signature.

The legislation, advocated by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), would advance collaboration among health and enforcement authorities to achieve drug abuse solutions that maintain patients’ legitimate access to medications.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed its largely similar version of the bill (H.R. 471) in April 2015. Congressional leaders will need to determine the best path to achieving passage of the exact same legislative language in both chambers, so the bill can advance to the President.

In late February, NACDS sent a letter to members of the U.S. Senate, urging the passage that was achieved yesterday. The lead sponsors of the Senate bill are U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

“NACDS appreciates the diligence that has brought this legislation to the brink of enactment,” said NACDS President and CEO Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE. “Throughout, NACDS has emphasized pharmacy’s commitment to a zero-tolerance for abuse and diversion, and a 100-percent commitment to patient care. This legislation will help to deliver on that vision.

“All you have to do is see the suffering of those affected by prescription drug abuse, and the suffering of those affected by chronic pain, to know that there needs to be a genuine effort to address these complex problems simultaneously, strategically and sympathetically.”

NACDS has noted that the steady progress of the legislation in the Congress can be considered to be highly consistent with public attitudes. In an opinion study commissioned by NACDS last summer, likely voters who are engaged and aware when it comes to current events indicated through their responses an appreciation for the need to address drug abuse and drug access in a complementary manner.

Nearly 8-in-10 respondents agreed 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.”