Senate overwhelmingly passes opioid bill

U.S. Capitol. Photo: UPI

Sept. 18 (UPI) — The Senate overwhelmingly approved a sweeping bipartisan bill to fight the national opioid crisis Monday.

The chamber passed the legislation 99-1, with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, the only lawmaker to oppose it. It comes nearly three months after the House passed similar legislation by a vote of 396-14.

The Senate version of the bill includes more than 70 provisions to treat and conduct research on opioid addiction. The Justice Department, which has established a number of task forces to target the crisis criminally, says opioids killed an estimated 64,000 Americans in 2016 and likely more in 2017.

Included in the package is a proposal by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, in which doctors could discuss alternatives to opioid medications for patients on Medicare. The Department of Health and Human Services said nearly one-third of Medicare Part D prescription plan users were prescribed an opioid in 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Another proposal by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act, would attempt to halt shipments of fentanyl to the United States.

The bill must be reconciled with the one passed by the House earlier this summer, but Senate aides believe the full Congress can agree on legislation before the end of the year.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released earlier this month found that one in 12 Americans has debilitating chronic pain, a problem that lies at the root of the opioid epidemic.


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