July 06, 2016

Manchin Applauds Administration's Actions to Address the Opioid Abuse Epidemic

Washington, D.C. – Today U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) applauded the Administration’s new efforts to combat the prescription opioid and heroin abuse epidemic. These additional actions will expand access to treatment, strengthen prescription drug monitoring, enable safe disposal of unneeded drugs, and accelerate research on pain and opioid misuse and overdose. 

“With this announcement, the Administration has demonstrated its commitment to fighting the opioid epidemic but it is now time for Congress to act too,” Senator Manchin said. “As the Senate and House conference committee continues to work on bipartisan, bicameral comprehensive opioid legislation, we must also recommit to putting real resources behind these programs and initiatives that will aid us in the fight to end the prescription drug abuse epidemic. Since the President traveled to Charleston for a town hall on opioid abuse and saw firsthand the impact opioid abuse has had on West Virginians, the Administration’s efforts to combat this epidemic have dramatically increased. I especially applaud West Virginia native Sylvia Mathews Burwell and her colleagues for joining me in this critical fight to treat and prevent opioid addiction. It is clear that our country has reached a crisis point and we must act now towards a comprehensive, commonsense strategy to end this epidemic.”  

Senator Manchin introduced an amendment to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2015 (CARA) that would require medical practitioners to receive training on the safe prescribing of opioids prior to receiving and renewing their DEA registration to prescribe controlled substances.

In April, Senator Manchin introduced legislation, the Promoting Responsible Opioid Prescribing Act, to reduce the pressure on doctors that may lead to the overprescribing of opioid painkillers. To read the full text of the bill, click here.

In May 2015, after the DEA announced it would no longer sponsor National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days, Senators Manchin sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch calling for the reinstatement of National Drug Take-Back Days. To view the letter, please click here.

The Administration’s new actions to combat the prescription drug epidemic include:


Expanding Access to Treatment:  

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is issuing a final rule to increase from 100 to 275 the number of patients that qualified physicians who prescribe buprenorphine for opioid use disorders can treat. Providers, policymakers, advocates, and experts have pointed to the current 100 patient limit for buprenorphine prescribing as a barrier to opioid use disorder treatment. The rule aims to increase access to medication-assisted treatment and associated behavioral health supports for tens of thousands of people with opioid use disorders, while preventing diversion.

Improving Prescription Drug Monitoring by Federal Prescribers: 

  • Department of Veterans Affairs: As part of its efforts to prevent and treat opioid use disorder among Veterans, VA is releasing a new policy for its health care providers who prescribe controlled substances that requires them (or where allowed their delegate) in most cases to check State PDMPs prior to deciding to prescribe a new controlled substance to determine if a patient is receiving opioids or other controlled substances from another provider and document that in the electronic patient record. These checks will occur at a minimum once a year and/or when clinically indicated for each renewal or continuation of therapy. VA provides health care services to approximately 8.3 million veterans at 150 medical centers, nearly 1,400 community-based outpatient clinics, community living centers, Vet Centers and Domiciliaries.
  • Department of Defense: By the end of November 2016, DOD will have conducted an evaluation of its prescription drug monitoring program to assess its ability to capture community providers and use of cash transitions; identify any gaps in comprehensive use of prescription drug monitoring strategies; and make recommendations for closing those gaps.

Advancing Prescriber Education:  

Today HHS is releasing a Request for Information that seeks provider, consumer and other public comments on current HHS prescriber education and training programs and proposals for potential future activities through programs such as Medicare.

Encouraging Safe Pain Management Approaches:  

Health care providers have expressed concern that scores on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey pain management questions are tied to Medicare payments to hospitals, even though those payments currently have a very limited connection to the survey’s pain management questions. However, to prevent any potential confusion on the part of providers, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is proposing to remove the HCAHPS survey pain management questions from the hospital scoring calculation. This means that hospitals would continue to use the questions to survey patients about their in-patient pain management experience, but these questions would not affect the level of payment hospitals receive.

Accelerating Research on Pain and Opioid Misuse and Overdose:  

HHS is launching more than a dozen new scientific studies on opioid abuse and pain treatment to help fill knowledge gaps and further improve the Administration’s ability to fight this epidemic. As part of this announcement, the Department will release a report and inventory on the opioid abuse and pain treatment research being conducted or funded by its agencies in order to provide policy-makers, researchers, and other stakeholders with the full scope of HHS activities in this area.

Safely Disposing of Unneeded Prescription Opioids:

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has announced it will hold its 12th National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Saturday, October 22, providing a safe, convenient, and responsible way of disposing of unneeded prescription drugs. More than 6.4 million pounds of medication have been collected over the last eleven Take Back Days. Local communities and some pharmacies are also establishing ongoing drug take-back programs.  

Improving Housing Support for Americans in Recovery: 

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, in partnership with the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and HHS, is identifying best practices to support individuals using medication-assisted treatment in programs funded through HUD’s Homelessness Assistance Grants to promote replication of best practices throughout the country.  HUD also will work with its Continuums of Care partners to help individuals with prescription opioid or heroin use disorders and use housing to support recovery.