The Congressional Research Service issued a new report last week that includes an important statement: "Federal policy on PCS [prescription controlled substances] aims to balance the need to limit abuse of PCS with the need to maintain access to PCS for legitimate medical use. The federal government's approach to addressing prescription drug abuse has increasingly relied on coordination across agencies, including both law enforcement and health agencies."
At least two things can be said about that statement. First, it articulates the way things should be. But, second, it probably overstates the degree to which the government is pursuing this dual responsibility.
The Congressional Research Service is a nonpartisan and objective arm of the Library of Congress that analyzes issues for legislators' consideration. Its inclusion of this statement in its report on prescription drug abuse shows progress in telling both sides of this complex issue. However, much more needs to be done to ensure legitimate access to these medications for patients.
That is one of the reasons that this week's "mark-up" — or bill-writing session — by the Health Subcommittee of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee is so important. The Subcommittee adapted and approved the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act (H.R. 4709), sponsored by Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) and Energy and Commerce Committee Vice Chair Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). NACDS affirmed support for the bill, which would establish a framework to foster collaboration among health and enforcement officials on this issue.
The Subcommittee's action represents an important step, among other steps that are needed, to make the Congressional Research Service's statement a reality.
The views expressed here are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DSN.
Steve Anderson is the president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.