Outdated regulations keep large amounts of unused opioids in circulation, further exacerbating the opioid crisis and putting Americans at risk
Over 50 percent of those who abused a prescription pain reliever reportedly obtained it from a friend or family member, and 37 percent as a prescription from their doctor; Since the initial outbreak of COVID-19, 40 states have reported increases of opioid overdoses
Washington, DC - A bipartisan group of lawmakers including United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), and Congressman Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) are again calling on the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to finalize “partial fill” regulations as rates of opioid overdose deaths rise nationwide and as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to have an outsized impact on opioid use disorder (OUD) patients.
“More than 10 million people aged 12 and older reported abusing an opioid in the past year, with over 50 percent of those who abused a prescription pain reliever reporting that they obtained it from a friend or family member, and just 37 percent as a prescription from their doctor,” the lawmakers wrote. “Additionally, since the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, 40 states have reported increases of opioid overdoses.”
Section 702 of the 2016 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which was signed into law and based on a bill originally introduced by Senators Warren and Capito and Representatives Clark and Stivers, helps reduce the number of unused opioids in circulation by allowing patients to take home only a portion of their opioid prescription and later return to the pharmacy to have the remainder filled if their pain continues. This affords both patients and doctors greater control over the amount of opiates in their possession and in circulation. However, the DEA’s current definition for “partial fill” only allows a “partial fill” if the pharmacist does not have enough medication on hand to completely fill a prescription. This outdated definition prevents pharmacists from fulfilling the intent of Section 702.
“The ready availability of opioids to millions of Americans and the disruption of life-saving treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic have compounded this ongoing national crisis. Defining ‘partial fill’ and fully implementing Section 702 of CARA will reduce the number of prescription opioids in circulation, a crucial step in addressing the opioid crisis that is devastating communities across the country. DEA’s continuing foot-dragging on this issue puts Americans at risk,” the lawmakers wrote.
The letter follows a similar request from the lawmakers in July 2018 in which they pressed DEA to update outdated regulations on partial filling of Schedule II controlled substances. In December 2017, the lawmakers urged the DEA to issue updated regulations and guidance regarding partial filling of Schedule II controlled substances. In April 2018, Senators Warren and Capito introduced the Unused Medication Awareness Act, which was included as part of the Senate HELP Committee’s bipartisan package of opioid crisis response bills. The legislation requires the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to educate patients and health care providers about the option to partially fill their prescriptions.