Senate Passes 70-Provision Bill on Opioid Epidemic

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The Senate on Monday passed sweeping, bipartisan legislation aimed at combating the opioid epidemic through research, treatment and help for families affected by addiction. The bill, which includes more than 70 provisions, passed with a 99-1 vote. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) voted no, the Wall Street Journal reports  To become law, the package needs to be reconciled with a measure passed by the House in June and signed by President Trump. One section from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) prompts physicians to discuss pain-management alternatives for those who use Medicare. Nearly one in three who use Medicare’s Part D prescription plan received a prescription opioid in 2017. The Senate would give money to the National Institutes of Health to research a nonaddictive painkiller. It would try to stop synthetic drugs from being shipped across the border by requiring foreign shippers to provide electronic data to help U.S. officials target illegal packages.

Federal funding to combat the opioid epidemic has risen as the crisis has worsened. The spending bill passed in March included $4.7 billion to fight the crisis, including $1 billion for grants for states. Lawmakers are on track to approve $3.8 billion for next year. U.S. overdose deaths from all drugs soared to more than 72,000 in 2017, a record, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That compares with 66,000 deaths in 2016. The report shows how much deadlier opioid drugs have become, with the largest number of deaths traced to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. The data show a slight decline in deaths in the last month of 2017 and January 2018. “I recognize these provisions are just a start, but we are losing 116 lives every day. And we need to save as many as we can—as soon as we can,” said Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI).

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