Costello: Still more work to do on opioid abuse
The opioid epidemic has affected thousands in Pennsylvania and, unfortunately, an even larger number across the United States. That is why the House worked extensively over the past two years – during the 114th Congress – to assist individuals and families facing addiction and provide resources for those fighting the opioid epidemic on the front lines. These were urgent and necessary steps to stem the growing tide of addiction and get immediate help to those in need.
Congressional action has been critical to providing resources and bolstering support for states as they confront the opioid epidemic. Last June, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) passed the House and was signed into law. This legislation was a comprehensive response to the epidemic. Shortly thereafter, we continued this important work by passing the 21st Century Cures Act, a bill I was proud to cosponsor. The Cures Act authorized a significant sum - $1 billion dollars – in grants to states to further strengthen their work in addressing the opioid epidemic. States are authorized to utilize this grant funding for improving their prescription drug monitoring program, commonly referred to as PDMP, and for other addiction prevention activities.
These are valuable steps forward in the battle against opioid abuse and addiction. While we have come a long way, the reality is that the scourge is evolving and new avenues for abuse continue to appear. Yes, we need to get resources directly to our communities to stem the tide, but we must also drive innovation that puts us ahead of these paths to addiction. This has been an area of my focus: preventing addiction in the first place by using innovative tools that harness the coupling of data and technology.
CARA authorized grant funding for states to develop, put into place, or expand a PDMP. Pennsylvania’s PDMP is an important tool in expanding how we effectively use data in healthcare to prevent addiction. The program is designed to share data between pharmacies, doctors, and other health professionals so they are made aware of patients who are potentially susceptible to addiction. In August 2016, Pennsylvania’s PDMP went into effect and according to a recent report, 64,000 officials have accessed Pennsylvania’s PDMP, while the database has seen 25,000 requests each weekday. This year, our PDMP will share its data with other states for even better coordination and prevention efforts.
Another groundbreaking approach that I’ve spoken about in the past was developed right here in our community - a tamper-proof drug developed by Egalet, located in Chester County. Egalet’s drug has a built in resistance to protect it from being abused, and the drug recently won approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
PDMP and tamper-proof drugs are very different types of solutions, but they reflect the importance of a multi-pronged approach to countering addiction. The progress we have made is important, but we’ll need to continue to stop the fight against opioids and opioid substitutes like Fentanyl. I look forward to continuing this work on the Energy & Commerce Committee in the new Congress.
Rep. Ryan Costello, R-6, of West Goshen, is a member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and the Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic.