August 27, 2018 | Policy Update
Addiction Policy Update August 2018
WASHINGTON D.C. UPDATE
The House remains on recess through Labor Day.
Negotiations continued in the Senate this week in an effort to reach an agreement on a legislative package to address the opioid epidemic. At a press conference on Tuesday, Leader McConnell (R-KY) said that opioid legislation is a:
“priority for the post Labor Day weekend”
and that Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Alexander (R-TN) is leading the effort to develop a package based on the work of the four Committees of jurisdiction (HELP, Finance, Judiciary and Commerce) in the hopes that the bill will be considered on the floor under a time agreement or possibly by voice vote.
Washington insiders say they expect the Senate to pass a package in September.
Yesterday, the Senate voted, 85 to 7, to approve a combined FY19 Labor Health and Human Services (HHS) and Defense spending bill.
Among the amendments agreed include:
- Requirement for NIH to conduct a comprehensive study of current funding levels related to mental health and substance use disorders (Senators Cassidy (R-LA) and King (I-ME))
- Requirement for a report no later than 180 days after the date of enactment of the Act from the Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on agency activities related to medication-assisted treatment. Specifically, the report “shall include a description of how the agency is taking steps to overcome barriers to medication-assisted treatment for adolescents and young adults.” (Senators Peters (D-MI) and Capito (R-WV))
Earlier in the day, Senator Grassley (R-IA) threatened to delay final passage of the spending package if a measure he proposed with Senator Durbin (D-IL) that would set aside $1 million to implement regulations requiring drug companies to disclose their prices in television ads was not included. Ultimately, a provision was added.
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP)
The Committee held a hearing entitled, Prioritizing Cures: Science and Stewardship at the National Institutes of Health. A webcast of the hearing and opening statements can be found here.
Issues that came up during the short hearing include: support for young scientists; the ability to recruit and retain scientists; things NIH is doing to help with the opioid epidemic; status of regenerative medicine research following passage of the 21st Century Cures bill; affordable and accessible therapies/drugs.
- CONVERSATION: NIH Director Dr. Collins & Senator Hassan (D-NH)
Dr. Francis Collins, the Director of NIH, said he needed more flexibility from Congress to allow NIH to fund research on the opioid epidemic more quickly and efficiently.
Senator Hassan (D-NH) noted that she was proud to help secure additional funds for New Hampshire through SAMHSA State Opioid Response Grants. She thinks it is important to stay focused on the hardest hit states to ensure they get the concentration of grants needed and to support science to find ways to treat addiction and manage pain. Senator Hassan touted the ACE Research Act, which would give NIH the flexibility it needs to quickly advance research on new treatments and non-addictive pain medications by providing other transaction authority.
Dr. Collins noted timing is urgent. One project the NIH would be excited about includes identifying multiple areas in the U.S. hit hardest by the epidemic, and then bring together all players/support systems to see what happens when everyone works together in a coordinated way. This has never really been done before, and having more flexibility will allow this to happen faster and more effectively.
This Policy Update was generously provided by Holly Strain & Carol McDaid of Capitol Decisions