Energy and Commerce has been at the tip of the spear in the national fight to combat the opioid crisis. From the earliest days of our investigations in 2012 to present day, we remain committed to learning more about how and why it happened, and what legislative solutions can be pursued.
On October 25, 2017, Energy and Commerce held a Full Committee Hearing on the Opioid Crisis
“The primary purpose of this hearing is to hear from the federal agencies charged with implementing the provisions of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and the 21st Century Cures Act,” said Chairman Walden during his opening remarks. “But it also allows this committee to have an important conversation with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).”
Chairman Walden detailed the committee’s ongoing bipartisan investigation into alleged pill dumping in the state of West Virginia, adding, “It is time for DEA to get this committee the information we need, and to do it quickly. No more dodges. No more delays.”
Click here or the image above to watch Chairman Walden’s interview with Fox News’ Martha MacCallum.
Chairman Walden’s op-ed in Morning Consult on the Opioid Crisis
The effects are disastrous and heartbreaking. The reach is from coast to coast. The opioid crisis has truly reached epidemic proportions, fueled by dangerous new chemical versions and illicitly manufactured synthetic drugs. Scan the headlines on any given day and you’ll hear about a life gone too soon to addiction or about a raid that seized obscene quantities of prescription painkillers or illicit drugs.
It is killing our friends, family members and neighbors in communities across the country.
We owe it to the 91 Americans who die every day from an opioid overdose and their loved ones to press on in our fight against the crisis gripping our nation. And that’s just what our committee intends to do. – Chairman Greg Walden
More than 50 members testified before #SubHealth on Wednesday, October 11, 2017, for Member Day, an opportunity for members both on and off the committee to share personal and local stories, statistics, and potential solutions to combat the opioid crisis. For a recap of the day’s 12 panels or to watch archived testimony, click here.
In addition to earlier investigations, our Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee launched a series of investigations into the opioid epidemic in 2017. Those investigations include: fentanyl, a synthetic opioid; alleged pill dumping; and patient brokering. In addition, the subcommittee has also reviewed various state level responses to the epidemic.
On September 13, 2017, Hearst Television aired a live primetime one-hour special across its station group to address America’s opioid epidemic. The special included a segment with Chairman Walden, who highlighted the committee’s ongoing investigations related to the opioid crisis.
Click the image to view the entire special. Chairman Walden appears at 49:13.
Alleged Pill Dumping
- Bipartisan committee leaders sent letters to the top drug distributors and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in May regarding reports of extremely high amounts of opioids being distributed in the state of West Virginia. Bipartisan committee leaders sent a letter to a fourth distributor, Miami-Luken in September, and a second letter to the DEA in October.
- Kermit, West Virginia, population 400, received nearly 9 million hydrocodone pills in a two-year period.
- During a #FullCmte hearing on federal efforts to combat the opioid crisis, Chairman Walden grilled the DEA on their lack of cooperation or responsiveness to the committee’s ongoing investigation.
- Bipartisan committee leaders sent a letter to HHS in July regarding reports of “patient brokers” who are serving as intermediaries and profiting from the recruitment of patients seeking treatment for addiction.
- The letter cited news reports about such facilities, which said that brokers can be paid anywhere from $500 to $5,000 for each patient who they get to enter into a treatment center. These reports also touted free services to lure vulnerable patients looking for help, including free rent, cigarettes, and manicures.
- In November, bipartisan committee leaders sent letters to departments of six state governments (AZ, CA, CO, FL, MA, and PA) on patient brokering allegations.
- A synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine, it is the leading cause of opioid overdose deaths.
- It is easy and very cheap to illicitly manufacture and has been appearing in communities across the country, mostly coming from China and clandestine labs in Mexico.
- Bipartisan committee leaders sent a letter to DEA in November regarding the use of pill presses in fentanyl pill mills.
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and the 21st Century Cures Act
Last Congress, E&C led two major initiatives being signed into law that provide critical resources for combating the crisis.
- CARA includes 11 committee bills which ranged from additional resources to combat the epidemic to establishing an inter-agency task force to review, modify, and update best practices for pain management and how it is prescribed. In September 2017, HHS released $144.1 million, largely through CARA to help prevent and treat opioid addiction.
- The 21st Century Cures Act – Provides $1 billion in state grants to be applied to the fight on the front lines. The first half of these grants were issued in April 2017 and totaled $485 million. The second half will be issued in 2018.