Congress tackles pain medication addiction crisis

  • George Colli, Cox Media Group Washington News Bureau
Updated May 11, 2016

The U.S. House of Representatives is taking up a flurry of bills this week addressing the nation’s heroin and opioid crisis.

Lawmakers voted on opioid-related amendments Wednesday with more votes set for Thursday.

They cover a range of issues from giving first responders and pharmacies better access to a life-saving antidote to giving law enforcement more authority to fight drug trafficking.

Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Massachusetts, put forward three bills, including one that would allow doctors and patients or their caregivers to partially fill prescriptions.

“It allows a patient or parent of a minor child to work with a pharmacist and say, ‘I don’t want that many pills in my medicine cabinet,'” Clark said.

Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Pennsylvania, proposed an amendment that would instruct a new task force to consider whether to allow doctors to prescribe the overdose reversal drug to patients and their families.

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is also critical of the time it has taken for the House to take up issue.

“I’m pleased that the Senate acted back in March with a strong comprehensive bill,” Portman said. “I was disappointed the House didn’t take up our bill and pass it.”

Congressman Alan Grayson’s amendment would give law enforcement a prominent seat at the table if a new task force is formed.

The Florida Democrat says the need to combat the opioid crisis is urgent, but he’s upset it has taken this long to pass major legislation to combat painkiller addiction.

“Who knows if either one is going to get passed,” Grayson said. “It's a shame we have to go through this in order to solve people's problems and keep them alive.”

Grayson says opioid related overdoses increased nationwide more than 300 percent over the last two years.