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Congress passes bipartisan opioid legislation

October 04, 2018

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — The Senate on Oct. 3 overwhelmingly passed bipartisan legislation aimed at ending the nation's opioid crisis.

HR 6, the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act, passed the House on Sept. 28. It now moves to President Trump's desk and is expected to be signed into law.

Key provisions of the bill include authorizing additional funding for medical professional continuing education and improving the quality and interoperability of state prescription drug monitoring programs. It also intensifies federal research into new pain management therapies and promotes more convenient ways for consumers to dispose of their unused medications.  

ADA President Joseph P. Crowley commended Congress for passing the legislation, noting that the Association's interim policy addressing the opioid epidemic was one of the first of its kind for a health care organization.

"The ADA is thrilled that Congress passed this bill," said Dr. Crowley. "It contains many provisions that are good for both patients and providers, including additional funding for continuing education for health professionals and state prescription drug monitoring programs. The ADA strongly believes that improved prescription drug monitoring programs will help doctors prescribe more safely and effectively, as supported in the Association's policy."

Provisions affecting dentistry include:

  • Continuing education. The bill provides a new round of grants for prescribers to learn about best pain management practices — including nonaddictive pain medications — with minimal use of opioids. It also requires agencies to submit to Congress a plan for medical professionals to certify to the Drug Enforcement Administration that they have obtained training in proper prescribing of Schedule II Controlled Substances, including pain management, and the prevention and treatment of addiction.
  • Prescribing limits. The bill requires the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Justice to submit to Congress a report on the impact of federal and state laws and regulations that limit the length, quantity or dosage of opioid prescriptions.
  • Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs. The bill provides a series of grants and expanded agency authorities to help states improve their prescription drug monitoring programs.
  • Clinical guidelines. The bill requires the FDA to develop evidence-based opioid analgesic prescribing guidelines for the indication-specific treatment of acute pain. These guidelines must be accompanied by a clear statement clarifying the intention is to inform clinical decisions and not to restrict, limit, delay or deny coverage or access by individual health care professionals. The bill also requires the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare to publish a guideline for prescribing opioids to Medicare patients.
  • Interprofessional collaboration. The bill provides new technical assistance to help emergency departments and other acute care providers implement best practices to minimize opioid prescribing in those settings. This is in line with the ADA's Emergency Department Referral Program.
  • Non-Narcotic Alternatives. The bill expands the National Institutes of Health's authorities to rapidly divert funds for high-impact research in response to public health threats, such as fostering the development of non-narcotic alternatives to opioid pain relievers.
  • Drug Disposal Centers. The bill establishes grants to expand the number of authorized drug collection centers where consumers can dispose of their unused pills. It also clarifies FDA's authorities to require manufacturers to offer safe disposal options (e.g., disposal packaging, etc.).
  • Communities of Recovery. The bill charges agencies with developing addiction recovery centers and peer-to-peer support networks in areas with high drug overdose rates. It also authorizes technical assistance for state Medicaid agencies provide housing-related support and care coordination for those in recovery.
  • Medicare. The bill tasks CMS with developing a way to identify outlier prescribers of opioids to Medicare Part D patients based on specialty and geographic area.

The ADA continues to raise professional awareness on medication alternatives to opioids, encouraging dentists to complete Continuing Education Provider Recognition training in model opioid prescribing and urging them to register with their state prescription drug monitoring programs. The ADA also offers free online continuing education courses on safe and effective analgesic prescribing for dental pain.

The Association will continue to work with Congress, government agencies and other stakeholders to help end the opioid crisis.

Follow all of the ADA's advocacy efforts on opioids at ADA.org/opioids.

As a public service, the ADA Center for Professional Success website is now offering free access to information on safe prescribing, online continuing education and other tools for managing dental pain, especially for patients who are at risk for drug overdose or addiction.

For more information, visit Success.ADA.org/opioids.