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Mr. WELCH. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman, and I endorse everything that the chairman just spoke about.
I am proud that the House is taking up this bipartisan action today to address an issue that impacts each of our districts, and that is prescription drug abuse.
I want to thank especially Mr. Marino, who is using his experience to bring this legislation to the floor, and it was great working with him, Mrs. Blackburn, and also with Congresswoman Chu.
Vermont is facing an opiate epidemic. That is true in many States around the country. In addition to the alarming increases in heroin abuse, we have had admissions in Vermont for prescription drug abuse that have increased 361 percent from 2005 to 2013.
As we have seen in my State, we are most effective in dealing with this public health crisis when everybody who has a stake in this works together. That is the collaborative approach that Mr. Pitts mentioned. That has got to be the providers, the public health officials, law enforcement, distributors, pharmacists. They have all got to come together to tackle this problem.
If we don't have flexibility and collaboration we can do something that might make enforcement tighter, but access to legitimate prescription drugs tougher. So the goal here is to get the balance right. We want to help folks get access to the prescription medication that they need. It alleviates suffering and it eliminates pain, but we want to make sure that the enforcement is solid so there isn't the abuse.
Today, distributors, like Burlington Drug Company in Vermont, and local pharmacies face very unpredictable enforcement from the DEA. DEA has a job, but so do the drug distributors and the doctors. That inconsistent enforcement--that unpredictable enforcement, I should say--can lead to disruptions in the supply chain, which end up limiting patient access to legitimate prescription drugs.
The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act will encourage collaboration between law enforcement, members of the supply chain, and public health providers and officials, while ensuring that patients have the access to the treatment their doctor has prescribed.
So this is, as you mentioned, Mr. Pitts, common sense. It is collaboration. It is working together and having mutual respect that each entity in this process has its own job to do, but for all of us to do it together, we have got to work together and communicate.
It has been great to work with Representatives MARINO, BLACKBURN, and CHU on this bill. I thank them for their leadership. I want to also thank Chairman Upton and Ranking Member Waxman for their leadership, and, of course, Mr. Pallone and Mr. Pitts.
I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 4709.
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