October 25, 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today continued his push to establish a comprehensive strategy to combat the opioid and heroin epidemic that is devastating communities in Maine and across the country. Senator King joined a group of his colleagues to introduce the Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act, legislation that would invest $45 billion for prevention, detection, surveillance and treatment of opioids. Senator King today also wrote to President Trump urging him to allow the government to negotiate lower prices for life-saving opioid overdose reversal drugs like Naloxone. The letter comes as the administration works to finalize its declaration of the opioid crisis as a national public health emergency, which would bolster funding and resources to hard-hit areas across America.
“The opioid and heroin epidemic is devastating communities in Maine, tearing apart families and destroying lives,” Senator King said. “It takes a comprehensive approach to fix this crippling issue so people in Maine can be safer and healthier, and it is incumbent upon Congress to provide concerned citizens, first responders, and health professionals with the resources they need to address this crisis. By providing adequate funding and expanding access to life-saving reversal drugs, we can take meaningful steps forward in our fight and help more people recover from the grip of addiction.”
More specifically, the Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act would authorize and appropriate $4,474,800,000 for substance abuse programs for each of fiscal years 2018 through 2027. It would promote research on addiction and pain related to substance abuse, and authorizes and appropriates $50,400,000 for each of fiscal years 2018 through 2022. The bill would also expand the use of funding already allowed under 21st Century Cures Act – a bill signed into law in December 2016 to promote innovation and bolster investment in medical research – so that states may also use this money for detection, surveillance, and treatment of co-occurring infections, as well as for surveillance, data collection, and reporting on the number of opioid overdose deaths. Under the bill, the National Institutes of Health would be responsible for distributing this money.
Senator King has been a leading proponent of providing additional funding to fight the heroin and opioid crisis, which kills more than one person per day in Maine. He has repeatedly called on Congress and both the Obama and Trump administrations to fund laws and agencies that help address the drug epidemic.
Along with Senator King, the Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act was introduced by U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Al Franken (D-MN), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH).
The letter can be read in full below and is available HERE.
October 25, 2017
President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
As you finalize the emergency declaration on opioid abuse, we urge you to follow the recommendations of your Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis and allow the government to negotiate lower prices for life-saving opioid overdose reversal drugs.
The opioid epidemic now claims 142 lives every day, and it is still getting worse. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, exceeding the peak car crash deaths and H.I.V. deaths decades earlier. Access to naloxone, a life-saving opioid overdose reversal drug, is particularly important given the magnitude of the epidemic.
Initially approved by the FDA in 1971, naloxone is used in hospitals and emergency rooms, by first responders, and by members of our communities to revive victims and restart their breathing. Unfortunately, the price of the drug itself has increased dramatically during the epidemic. The prices are highest for newer devices that make delivering the medication easier. Narcan, which administers naloxone as a nasal spray, costs $150 for a two pack and Evzio, a naloxone auto-injector, has increased from $690 in 2014 to $4,500 today for a two pack.
Your Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and Opioid Crisis recommends dramatically increasing access to naloxone, and says that “By declaring a national emergency, you can empower the HHS Secretary to negotiate reduced pricing for all governmental units.”
We strongly agree with the recommendation, and urge you to give the Secretary this authority immediately. By doing this, you can put the important medication in the hands of more people and save lives. We hope the policy will be the first step towards substantial action to bring down the cost of all drugs through negotiation and other policies, and part of a comprehensive emergency declaration that includes the investments needed to end the epidemic.