July 14, 2017

Manchin, Markey, Blumenthal Call for Mandatory Education for Opioid Prescribers

Legislation would require prescribers of opioid pain medications and other controlled substances to undergo mandatory training on safe prescribing practices and the identification of possible substance use disorders

Washington, D.C. – Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) joined Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) in introducing legislation that requires any prescriber of opioid medications to undergo mandatory education on safe prescribing practices. Specifically, the Safe Prescribing of Controlled Substances Act (S.1554) requires that all prescribers that are applying for a federal license to prescribe controlled substances, such as prescription painkillers, complete mandatory education that will help encourage responsible prescribing practices.

“Ending the opioid epidemic means we must rethink the way we prescribe opioids and that begins with our doctors, pharmacists and nurses,” said Senator Manchin. “Strengthening prescriber education will give doctors the resources and information they need to safely prescribe opiates and ensure that their patients know the risks. Our health professionals work tirelessly to heal the sick and keep our neighbors healthy, and they are vital to winning the fight against opioid abuse. I’m proud to join Senator Markey in introducing this bill and we will be working hard to get it passed in the Senate.”

“Preventing opioid addiction begins with the prescribers,” said Senator Markey. “We need to ensure that any prescriber signing a prescription for opioid painkillers understands the full impact that prescription may have on the life of a patient. While we need to commit to educating the next generation of doctors, we must also address the over-prescription problem today by mandating education for all prescribers of prescription opioids. Passing legislation to require safe prescribing education is an important part of the prevention of opioid overdoses that are taking tens of thousands of American lives every year.”

“Most substance abuse disorders start with a prescription pad,” said Senator Blumenthal. “With our country awash in opioids there is an urgent need to ensure that that gatekeepers to these drugs are trained in responsible practices and given the tools they need to spot potential abuse before it happens.”

The required education will focus on best practices for pain management and alternative non-opioid therapies for pain, methods for diagnosing and treating a substance use disorder, linking patients to evidence based treatment for substance use disorders, and tools to manage adherence and diversion of controlled substances, including Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs. The legislation also requires that the Department of Health and Human Services evaluate how implementing this new education requirement impacts prescribing patterns. To read a full copy of the legislation, click here.

As a part of the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) for extended release-long acting opioid painkillers, manufacturers of these drugs are required to provide low cost or free training programs for their prescribers, however the most recent analysis released by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2016 found that only 20 percent of prescribers completed this education since the program was implemented in 2012. Furthermore, a national survey of doctors in 2014 found that nearly half incorrectly believed that abuse deterrent pills were inherently less addictive and nearly a third erroneously assumed that prescription drug abuse mostly occurs by means other than swallowing pills.

Just yesterday, the National Academies Sciences released a report and series of recommendations at the request of the FDA. Among the recommendations was the need for mandatory education for health care providers on opioids, the need for FDA to consider the abuse and diversion potential of opioids in its regulatory decisions, and a call for FDA to review all already approved opioids taking into considerations the risks of these drugs contributing to the opioid epidemic.