The opioid epidemic confronting America is a growing public health crisis from which none of us are immune. Its impact is felt by families across the country, in small towns and large cities, coast to coast and everywhere in-between. Addressing this crisis requires a multifaceted solution involving everyone—parents and teachers, prescribers, biopharmaceutical companies, mental health professionals, those involved in distributing controlled substances and federal and state agencies.
Recently, we announced our support for a number of more aggressive policies to combat opioid abuse, including a 7-day script limit for acute pain, and our companies are working closely with NIH and FDA on a public-private partnership to bring new non-opioid therapies to market for patients who are in need of appropriate pain medication. These are in addition to our pursuit of policies that mandate prescriber education and training, expand treatment capacity and treatment options for those facing addiction, enhance the effectiveness of electronic databases that track prescribing of controlled substances, and provide greater access to overdose reversal agents and medication assisted therapies, among other policies.
With regards to the recent Washington Post & 60 Minutes stories, we want to be clear that PhRMA did not support or lobby in favor of the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act and reports that PhRMA spent $40 million lobbying this bill are unequivocally false.
Had we been contacted by these news outlets in advance of their stories running, we would have explained our longstanding support for enhanced law enforcement efforts to fight the opioid epidemic (as evidenced here and here). We also urge Congress to demand an independent assessment of whether the DEA has sufficient controls and authorities in place to prevent illicit diversion of controlled substances. And we believe that Congress should consider whether existing criminal and civil penalties are sufficient for repeated failures of DEA registrants to ensure that they report suspicious orders for controlled substances in a timely manner.
We will continue our efforts to fight this terrible epidemic, and we stand ready to work across the entire system to find ways to work together to do so.
Robert Zirkelbach Robert Zirkelbach is Executive Vice President of Public Affairs at PhRMA. He joined PhRMA in 2014 after working for seven years representing the health insurance industry. He likes Saturday afternoon BBQs on his deck, traveling, trying new restaurants, and attempting to play golf. He’s an avid, somewhat obsessive, Iowa Hawkeye fan and is lucky to have a wife that loves watching college football on Saturday afternoons.