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Finance Committee Adopts Toomey Measures To Reduce Unsafe Prescribing of Painkillers

June 12, 2018

Washington, D.C. - Today, the Senate Finance Committee approved four measures authored by U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) to help stem the tide against opioid and heroin abuse.

Most notably, the Committee adopted on a bipartisan vote Senator Toomey's amendment requiring the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to identify a Medicare patient who has suffered a non-fatal opioid overdose and notify the patient's doctor. A recent study in Pennsylvania of individuals who had suffered non-fatal overdoes showed around 60 percent received legal opioid painkiller prescriptions before the life-threatening event and around 60 percent received legal opioid painkiller prescriptions in the following six months.

"Informing doctors that their patient has suffered an overdose before they prescribe another opioid is just common sense, and I am glad my measure to make sure this happens in Medicare was adopted in Committee," said Senator Toomey. "I look forward to getting this provision enacted into law, along with several other important opioid measures voted out of committee today."

In total, the Senate adopted four Toomey-led provisions on opioid abuse. Full summaries are provided below.

Encouraging Appropriate Prescribing for Victims of Overdose in Medicare Act: The bill uses current drug utilization management tools within Medicare to encourage appropriate prescribing for victims of opioid-related nonfatal overdoses. After CMS identifies individuals who have nearly died from overdosing on opioids, CMS shares this information with prescription drug plans, which must notify the beneficiary and the prescriber (beneficiary also receives information on treatment and rights of appeal). The bill was introduced as an amendment by Senator Toomey and adopted by a bipartisan vote of 16-11.

Strengthening Partnerships to Prevent Opioid Abuse Act (S. 2905): Building on recommendations from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Department of Health and Human Service Office of the Inspector General (HHS OIG), the Strengthening Partnerships to Prevent Opioid Abuse Act would create an online portal through which prescription drug plans would be required to report opioid overprescribing and would refer suspected cases of fraud and abuse to CMS. Using this portal, CMS would also be required to inform plans of corrective actions taken regarding providers who have engaged in fraud and abuse, facilitate the sharing of referral information between plans, and inform plans of the resolution of their referrals. Senator Toomey introduced this legislation with Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO).

Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act (S. 2460): If widely adopted, electronically prescribing controlled substances instead of using paper scripts would help reduce prescription forgery, doctor shopping, prescribing errors, and provide accurate, up-to-date information for prescribers considering the best course of treatment for patients with pain. Unfortunately, evidence suggests controlled substance prescriptions are only written and sent electronically 21 percent of the time, while for non-controlled substances the same statistic is around 90 percent This proposal would mandate electronic prescribing for controlled substances in Medicare Part D. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced this legislation with Senators Toomey, Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Dean Heller (R-NV).

Commit to Opioid Medical Prescriber Accountability and Safety for Seniors (COMPASS) Act (S. 2920): This bill will require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to, in consultation with stakeholders, establish a threshold based on specialty and geographic area, for which a prescriber would be considered an outlier opioid prescriber. CMS would then notify prescribers identified as outliers of their status. This process would act as a flag to prescribers to encourage them to evaluate their practices. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) introduced this legislation with Senator Toomey.

Watch Senator Toomey's full remarks from today's Finance Committee markup.