- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 17, 2018

The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved dozens of bills that would help the FDA intercept drugs at ports, expand addiction treatment and otherwise combat the opioid epidemic, clearing the way for final passage by early summer.

Thirty-two measures cleared the panel, on top of 25 bills green-lighted last week.

Notable measures would beef up the Food and Drug Administration’s authority to seize and destroy counterfeit and illicit drugs that are filtering into the U.S. at international mail facilities, or give the agency power to approve non-addictive pain treatments faster, so patients don’t rely on opioids.

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Rep. Frank Pallone, New Jersey Democrat, said a visit to a package facility in his state underscored the need for more coordination between the FDA and customs agents charged with stemming the tide of drugs, weapons and other contraband from overseas.

“I could not believe how bad the situation was,” he said.

Other bills would ensure that inmates and former residents of juvenile detention get coverage for drug treatment, root out prescribers who dole out an unusual amount of opioids or ensure that Medicaid enrollees at risk of addiction are flagged for special care.

A bill by Rep. Anne Kuster of New Hampshire would set aside grant money to help labs detect fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is flooding the heroin supply and driving overdose deaths.

Opioid-related overdoses are killing tens of thousands of Americans each year, placing pressure on Congress to do something about the crisis.

Committee Chairman Greg Walden said Thursday’s action puts them on track to reach their goal of getting legislation ready for floor action by Memorial Day.

“Our communities are counting on us to deliver on solutions to help turn the tide of addiction and death that is ravaging town from coast to coast,” the Oregon Republican said.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy recently carved out floor time in June for debate and passage of opioids legislation.

Many of the bills were bipartisan, though Democrats said Congress still isn’t spending enough taxpayer money on the crisis.

Rep. Paul Tonko, New York Democrat, said the committee is approving “feel-good bills” that will bring incremental progress.

“The smallness of this debate is disgraceful. This crisis is growing and the answers are right in front of us,” Mr. Tonko said. “People need treatment, but instead of solutions, we’re giving excuses.”

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