ATLANTA, GA – On Tuesday morning, April 23, 2019, a bipartisan delegation from the U.S. House of Representatives united their voices at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta, where more than 3,500 people are gathered to initiate life-saving solutions on the nation’s deadly opioid epidemic. U.S. Representatives Hal Rogers (R-KY), Buddy Carter (R-GA), Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO), Susan Brooks (R-IN) and David Trone (D-MD) shared the latest information on federal policy and legislation, as well as their vision for next steps to impact the public health crisis on opioids.
“The CDC’s monumental prescribing guidelines are working. The number of opioid prescriptions has been on an eight-year decline, and since 2015, the number of opioids dispensed at pharmacies have fallen by 24%,” said Congressman Rogers, who helped launch the summit in 2012. “However, the guidelines are under siege by Big Pharma. We simply cannot allow industry to unduly influence this process and walk back the progress we’ve finally made. Reach out to your Members of Congress, engage with the CDC and the FDA. We need to be united in our message: Do Not Retreat. We have too much to lose.”
“There is a group in Indiana’s Fifth Congressional District, similar Operation UNITE in Eastern Kentucky, called the Grant County Substance Abuse Task Force that has been incredibly successful at reducing improper prescriptions at the local hospital, coordinating treatment options and care, and raising awareness in the community about drug abuse and prevention.This task force is a partnership of 30 different agencies that works to coordinate prevention, education, awareness, and treatment efforts for Hoosiers. It works to address substance abuse throughout the community – in schools, juvenile courts, hospitals, prisons and more,” said Congresswoman Brooks, who is pushing for more prescriber education during medical school.“In 2014 when the task force started its work, more than 20% of patients at Marion General Hospital (MGH) – one of the leaders of this task force – were prescribed opioids. In 2017, that number had fallen to 8.6% because MGH instituted new prescribing guidelines for opioids.”
In fiscal year 2019, Congress provided record levels of funding across the board. Over $7.4 billion was appropriated to touch every facet of the problem: prevention, treatment, recovery, research and enforcement.
“Just putting someone behind bars who has substance use disorder doesn’t solve that person’s problem. People who are not given treatment are at high risk of reusing and a higher risk of overdose,” said Congressman Clay, after sharing the loss of a cousin who died after an overdose of fentanyl-laced heroin. “This epidemic will not be defeated from Washington. It will be defeated in the streets of our rural towns and inner cities, in our churches and in our classrooms.”
Between 1999 and 2015, the decline in labor force participation cost the economy 12.1 billion work hours.
“Even as a pharmacist, I didn’t realize how pervasive the opioid epidemic was. 919,400 prime-age individuals were not in the labor force due to opioids in 2015,” said Congressman Carter, the only pharmacist in Congress. “We see almost one million people who could be a part of our workforce, if they could get the treatment they need and get on the road to recovery. To combat this crisis, record amounts of crucial resources have been dedicated by the Energy and Commerce Committee and Congress as a whole. I am committed to continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to help put an end to the opioid epidemic.”
“Last year, over 70,000 people died from drug overdoses, and in 2016 my nephew Ian was one of them,” said Rep. Trone, founder of the bipartisan Freshmen Working Group on Addiction in Congress. “I started a group with 54 members of the Freshmen class in Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, who came to Washington to get things done. We know it’s time to get to work to bring an end to the addiction crisis.”
Last summer, Congress passed the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act. It is the most comprehensive opioid package to date, including more than 50 bills that expand services for prevention, treatment and recovery. President Trump signed the legislation into law in October 2018.
To stay informed about Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit updates, visit rx-summit.com, and follow Rx Summit on Facebook and Twitter @RxSummit.
Office of Congressman Hal Rogers