By Congressman Marsha Blackburn
Not long ago I received a call from a constituent after an ice storm hit Middle Tennessee. The woman told me her son has a severe seizure disorder and has to take three medications daily. Although his medicines are not opioids, two of them are considered controlled substances. The mother went to the drug store the day before the storm was scheduled to hit to refill his prescriptions. She was preparing for the worst case scenario: closed roads and empty medicine bottles. At the drug store, she was told she could not refill them – it was too early. She explained the situation and the pharmacist sympathized, but went on to explain that if the prescriptions were to be filled early, there would be problems with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The pharmacist worried he might lose his license if he didn’t deny the pleading mom’s request.
Her son’s situation is not uncommon. It highlights the need for legislation that both ensures access to proper medication for patients with legitimate needs and allows us to continue battling the drug diversion and abuse problem in the United States. My legislation, the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016, does just that. This critical legislation combats the inappropriate use of prescription drugs by bringing greater clarity and transparency to the requirements for safe and secure distribution of these medicines. It accomplishes these goals by clarifying key terminology in the Controlled Substances Act. It creates more collaboration between the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), drug distributors and pharmacies, while maintaining patient access to important drugs. The bill directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the DEA to collaborate on the improvement of access and enforcement.
The comprehensive approach in this legislation will result in better protections against diversion and abuse of controlled substances. The bill provides DEA with the clarity to collaborate with the very people responsible for assuring that these medications get to the patients who need them while clamping down on diversion and abuse. Collaborations will lead to improved polices to prevent diversion while allowing legitimate patients to have access to the medications they need.
With strong bipartisan support, The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016 passed the House by a unanimous vote, passed through the Senate, and was signed by the President this month. The health and safety of individual patients and the peace of mind for their caregivers depends on such commonsense changes from the federal government.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives serving the Seventh Congressional District of Tennessee. She serves as Vice Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Chair of the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives. She was named the 2016 “Woman of the Year” by the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute.
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