WASHINGTON DC – Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) sent a letter this week urging the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to update regulations and guidance related to the partial filling of Schedule II controlled substances. Doing so would give prescribers and pharmacists additional clarity about the new provisions of federal law and other steps that can be taken to better address the nation’s opioid crisis.
The senators were joined by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee which has jurisdiction over the DEA. Reps. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) also signed the letter.
More than 33,000 Americans died from opioid-related drug overdoses in 2015, and prescription painkillers continue to be a major contributor to the epidemic. Senators Warren and Capito, and Representatives Clark and Stivers introduced bipartisan legislation that was incorporated in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) to enable patients or physicians to request a “partial fill” of any Schedule II medication, including prescription opioids like OxyContin and Vicodin.
“Outdated DEA regulations, which include a different definition of “partial filling” from the definition provided in CARA, have led to significant confusion on the part of pharmacists and prescribers,” wrote the Members of Congress. “These health care providers are critical partners in the fight against the opioid epidemic but are reluctant to move forward with implementation of the law or to proactively implement programs to partially fill initial opioid prescriptions until the DEA updates its regulations.”
In response to recent letters from Senators Warren and Capito inquiring about their implementation of partial fill authorities, the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) indicated that many of their members have expressed significant confusion regarding outdated DEA regulations. Medical member organizations are ready and willing to inform their members about partial fill policies, but the DEA needs to issue clear federal guidance so they can disseminate additional information.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, over 70 percent of people who misuse prescription painkillers got them from a friend, relative, or doctor. Encouraging prescribers and pharmacists to embrace partial fill policies for their patients would help reduce the number of opioids that are misused in homes and communities across the country.