Lame-Duck Congress Could Authorize More Opioid Funds

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Congress is close to passing a bill, after several thwarted attempts, that would include a provision allocating $1 billion to address the opioid epidemic,  the Huffington Post reports. That effort could still be upended by last-minute concerns that the broader legislation is too much of a giveaway to the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. House and Senate Republicans agreed over the weekend on a final version of the 21st Century Cures Act, one of the last bills on the table before the new Congress is sworn in this January.

Three years in the making, the measure is designed as a broad investment in medical research and development at the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, coupled with the loosening of bureaucratic red tape and regulatory restrictions. Its authors have tinkered with the sources of funding and the language of the legislation. In the process, they’ve encouraged lawmakers to offer their support by adding specific, popular provisions to the final product. One of those provisions was funding to tackle the opioid epidemic, a development that seemed unlikely as recently as several months ago. Deaths from opioid overdoses have continued to rise in many communities , and treatment systems are outdated and ill-equipped to address the influx. Over the summer, President Obama signed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which expanded access to medication-assisted treatments but included essentially no funding to implement the proposals.

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