Lawmakers Send Letters Urging Administration Actions on Opioid Epidemic

Last week, lawmakers sent two letters to the Biden Administration urging actions to address safe opioid disposal and requesting additional information on the Administration’s proposal to permanently schedule all fentanyl analogues. On Tuesday, Senator Cory Booker (NJ) led a bicameral group of lawmakers and sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Anne Millgram detailing their concerns about the Administration’s proposal to make the temporary scheduling of fentanyl-related substances (FRS) permanent. In their letter, the lawmakers note that the permanent classwide scheduling without prior scientific and medical evaluation of a substance’s potential for abuse or accepted medical use may lead to individuals being prosecuted and sentenced for substances that may be harmless. The lawmakers request data for all DEA-identified FRS, data on the pharmacological effect of FRS, epidemiological data for FRS, any scientific and medical studies done on FRS by HHS or the FDA, and the names of all chemical, pharmacological, or epidemiological studies of FRS.

On Wednesday, Representative Tom Emmer (MN-06) led a bipartisan group of lawmakers to send a letter to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Robert Califf urging the agency to reevaluate and strengthen its recent proposal to require mail-back envelopes and education on safe disposal with opioid analgesics dispensed in an outpatient setting. In their letter, the lawmakers ask FDA to provide information on the process FDA used to consult with other federal agencies in developing their proposal, any feedback FDA received from the agencies consulted during the proposal development process, the expected costs of implementing their proposal, whether FDA performed risk assessments to address the rise in mail thefts, whether FDA consulted with Tribal officials when developing its proposals, and whether FDA assessed the impacts of their proposal on rural communities. In a statement, Representative Emmer said, “Opioid addiction has ravaged communities and stolen too many American lives. Last year, drug overdoses hit an all-time high. Tragically, many of these addictions were triggered by the contents of a home medicine cabinet. Safe opioid disposal saves lives by cutting off a key source of dangerous drugs before they can end up in the wrong hands. We must ensure that the FDA is recommending the safest and most effective methods of disposal to households across America.”

Articles & Resources

Senator Booker Bicameral Letter

Representative Emmer Bipartisan Letter

ONDCP to Develop National Nonfatal Overdose Tracking System

On June 30th, Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and David Holtgrave, Senior Policy Analyst at ONDCP, published a Viewpoint in the Journal of the American Medical Association outlining an ONDCP collaboration with federal agencies to develop a national nonfatal overdose tracking system. ONDCP has created a Drug Data Interagency Working Group to guide the development of the system and next steps will include reviewing all existing sources of information about nonfatal overdoses from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Emergency Medical Services Information System, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Drug Overdose Surveillance and Epidemiology system, the Veterans Administration data systems, the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program, published public- and private-sector overdose data reports, and state and local reports on overdoses. With their national tracking system, ONDCP aims to estimate national incidence and prevalence of nonfatal overdoses, estimate unmet need for medical and social services, predict trends in the fatality rate of overdoses to help public health systems respond more effectively, estimate the success of overdose intervention programs, and analyze emerging threats.

Articles & Resources

JAMA – A National Tracking System for Nonfatal Drug Overdoses

What We Read Last Week

Bloomberg Government – Behind the Scenes, McKinsey Guided Companies at the Center of the Opioid Crisis

FBI – Acting Deputy Assistant Director Remarks Announcing the Formation of the New England Prescription Opioid Strike Force

FDA – Timeline of Selected FDA Activities and Significant Events Addressing Opioid Misuse and Abuse

Healio – Q&A: Federal regulations for opioid use disorder treatment may change

Kaiser Health News – Overdose Deaths Behind Bars Rise as Drug Crisis Swells

NAHB – ‘No Shame Pledge’ Aims to Combat Stigma Surrounding Addiction

Science – Soft, bioresorbable coolers for reversible conduction block of peripheral nerves

The Washington Post – Supreme Court sides with doctors convicted of overprescribing opioids

United Nations – UNODC World Drug Report 2022 highlights trends on cannabis post-legalization, environmental impacts of illicit drugs, and drug use among women and youth

This Week’s Calendar

In the week ahead, there are no relevant events or hearings noticed at this time. In the event that there are any changes to the schedule for this week, we will make additional information available.

Questions about the above content can be directed to [email protected].