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House Passes Welch Legislation to Curb Prescription Drug Abuse and Ensure Timely Patient Access

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Yesterday, the House passed bipartisan legislation authored by Representatives Tom Marino (R-PA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Judy Chu (D-CA) to fight prescription drug abuse by improving prescription drug distribution. The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act (H.R. 4709) would enhance collaboration between drug suppliers and regulators ensuring a more secure supply chain that protects the legitimate medication needs of patients.

"Today, the House of Representatives took an important step forward to foster greater collaboration, communication and transparency between the Drug Enforcement Administration and manufacturers, distributors, and dispensers of prescription drugs. Ultimately, greater collaboration and understanding will improve efforts to combat the prescription drug abuse epidemic we know is affecting the communities we represent," said Marino. "Last year a pharmacist from Pennsylvania told me about problems he had in accessing necessary prescriptions for cancer patients dealing with chronic pain. Ultimately, this raised serious concerns about problems in the prescription drug supply chain that threatened access and effective enforcement. I have been proud to work with other serious-minded legislators like Representatives Blackburn, Welch, and Chu to identify the policies contributing to the problem and formulate H.R. 4709 that will clarify current law and create more opportunities to identify bad actors in the supply chain while making certain that prescriptions are accessible to patients in need."

"Prescription drug abuse is claiming lives all across this country," said Rep. Welch. "Pain killers are falling into the wrong hands while delivery of these same drugs is being stalled to the patients that need them, including seniors and those battling cancer. To fix this problem, drug suppliers and federal officials need to be able to work hand-in-hand to improve our drug delivery system and that's exactly what this legislation does."

"Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic that is killing tens of thousands of Americans each year. It is a problem that is in great need of a solution," Blackburn said. "That is why I worked with my colleagues Tom Marino, Peter Welch and Judy Chu, in sponsoring this bipartisan legislation to facilitate greater collaboration between industry stakeholders and regulators in our nation's effort to combat prescription drug abuse, while also ensuring that patients who need medication are able to receive it. Simply acknowledging the epidemic of prescription drug abuse isn't enough. Congress has a responsibility to make sure the law is crystal clear for both DEA and legitimate businesses who want to understand what the rules are so they can do the right thing. That is why I am so pleased the House has acted today on our legislation that seeks to ensure the prescription drug supply chain is safe and secure for the patients that truly rely upon it to alleviate pain and treat illnesses."

"Prescription drugs improve the quality of life for millions of Americans," said Chu. "They treat illnesses, alleviate pain, and help cure disease. But, prescription drug abuse is a real problem in our country, and too many Americans die each year as a result. The bipartisan bill we passed today will ensure that pharmacists -- our nation's most accessible healthcare providers -- are able to dispense drugs to patients who are in legitimate need safely and without disruption."

The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act (H.R. 4709) removes the current ambiguity in law on drug delivery guidelines and provides clear compliance instructions to both drug suppliers and the Drug Enforcement Agency. It also requires much greater collaboration and communication between drug suppliers and federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies, so that they can better respond to this ever-evolving problem.

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