On November 30th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Cures Act, a medical research and innovation bill that includes $1 billion to help combat heroin and opioid addiction. Funding in the bill is aimed at prevention and treatment, as well as training health care practitioners in best prescribing practices for reducing misuse, abuse, and overdose prevention. While the funds are spread over two years and available to states in the form of federal block grants, it’s not clear how states will receive funding with regard to locations with higher incidence or prevalence of opioid abuse.
Though passed with wide bipartisan support, the 21st Century Cures Act does not address issues related to the production, distribution, or marketing of opioid painkillers by pharmaceutical manufacturers. Big Pharma’s support of the bill also raises important concerns about the prospect of future regulation of the manufacture of opioids, as the bill provided regulatory rollbacks long-sought by the industry. It remains to be seen exactly how Congress will gain meaningful assistance in fighting the opioid epidemic from the producers of prescription painkillers.
Despite the uncertainties of how the 21st Century Cures Act will ultimately play out, The Council on Recovery still recognizes the House’s passage of this bill as an important step toward preventing and treating opioid abuse. The bill is expected to garner bipartisan support in the Senate when it is debated this week and we support its passage.