October 19, 2017

Does DOJ have the tools to fight opioid misuse? They're going to find out.

Daily Briefing

A top Department of Justice (DOJ) official on Tuesday said the department will review federal regulations to determine whether they give the department the authority needed to curb the opioid misuse epidemic.

The reports you need to change opioid prescribing behaviors

The statement comes shortly after a "60 Minutes" and the Washington Post investigation found that a law (PL 114-145)—the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act (EPAEDA), which Congress passed with unanimous consent and former President Barack Obama signed into law in 2016—hinders the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) efforts to curb the amount of prescription painkillers distributed in the United States.

DOJ to review whether the department has enough power to curb opioid misuse

According to the Los Angeles Times, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Tuesday was asked whether current laws are sufficient to control the U.S. opioid misuse epidemic, and he responded that DOJ is "going to review it."

Rosenstein did not say whether current laws give the department enough power to curb the epidemic, but added, "if we conclude [officials] don't have the appropriate tools, we will seek more tools."

Separately, President Trump on Monday said his administration next week will declare a national emergency over the opioid misuse epidemic.

PhRMA calls for EPAEDA's repeal

In related news, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) on Tuesday said the group supports efforts to repeal EPAEDA, Axios' "Vitals" reports.

PhRMA contested the "60 Minutes"/Post investigation's depiction of the industry's involvement and influence in the law, saying, neither the Post nor "60 Minutes" contacted them for comment.

According to "Vitals," PhRMA said it did not lobby for or endorse EPAEDA before it became law. PhRMA President Stephen Ubl said the group "will continue our efforts to fight this terrible epidemic and [it] stand[s] ready to work across the entire system to find ways to work together to do so."

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) on Monday introduced legislation to repeal EPAEDA (Bennett/Tanfani, Los Angeles Times, 10/17; Korte, USA Today, 10/17; Merica, CNN, 10/16; Baker, "Vitals," Axios, 10/18; Delk, The Hill, 10/17).

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Opioid misuse and abuse is one of the most pressing public health issues in the U.S., and hospitals and health systems are on the front lines. Currently, most health systems focus their opioid management efforts on select medical specialties.

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