A congressional conference committee has dropped a controversial provision that gave the Drug Enforcement Administration authority to review, and potentially block, the sale of all new prescription narcotics, reports the Washington Post. The legislation passed last year in a one-year appropriations bill with little notice. But this year the Food and Drug Administration, many drug makers, and doctors who treat pain patients objected to renewing it, and the provision was stripped from the bill.
Opponents said the provision was an unwarranted intrusion by a law enforcement agency into the FDA’s drug-review system. Pain specialists also said the DEA reviews could jeopardize development of new drugs needed by patients with chronic pain. “The goal behind it was to prevent another OxyContin,” said a spokesman for Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), who advocated the measure. “Now that oversight isn’t going to be there.” The dispute over the measure, and the almost $50 million in additional DEA funding attached to it, reflect a wider debate over the DEA’s role in monitoring the use of prescription painkillers. The agency has arrested scores of doctors, pharmacists, and other health-care workers accused of negligence or willful diversion in dispensing prescription narcotics that were later abused. Pain doctors complained that, as a result, many physicians have stopped prescribing needed painkillers.