WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, along with Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, introduced bipartisan legislation that will increase transparency in the prescription drug payment process. Too often, an opioid addiction starts with the prescription pad. The transparency introduced in this legislation is one tool to help stop the opioid epidemic. By shining a light on the relationship between drug companies and prescriptions for opioids, greater accountability will be achieved.

For more than a decade, Senator Grassley has conducted oversight and sought disclosure from the pharmaceutical and medical device industries and their ties to physicians and teaching hospitals that receive taxpayer dollars. Legislation that Senator Grassley wrote created the Open Payments website at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. As a result of this database, billions of dollars in payments from pharmaceutical and medical device companies to healthcare providers have been disclosed.

The Fighting the Opioid Epidemic with Sunshine Act will require drug companies and medical device makers to publicly disclose the same payments made to nurse practitioners and physician assistants for promotional talks, consulting, and other interactions. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants write a significant number of prescriptions and should be included in these disclosures. In light of the nation’s opioid epidemic, these disclosures have taken on a new importance. Recent news reports found nurse practitioners were among the top prescribers for some drugs, including opioids. Other news reports found some of these healthcare providers had been charged with taking industry kickbacks related to opioid prescribing.

“Last year, prescriptions for opioid painkillers in Iowa amounted to nearly 300 million pills. That’s 90 pills per person in Iowa. Nationwide, prescription opioid sales almost quadrupled from 1999 to 2014. It’s an epidemic that is destroying individuals, families and communities in Iowa and nationwide,” Grassley said. “The Fighting the Opioid Epidemic with Sunshine Act is one more critical step lawmakers can take to stop the spreading of opioid abuse and hold accountable those who promote opioids for financial gain only.” 

“Ohioans deserve to know their provider is making decisions in their own best interest – not the best interest of the drug and device companies providing kickbacks,” said Senator Brown.

“The opioid epidemic has taught us a terrible lesson: without full transparency, pharmaceutical companies can operate under the cover of darkness, possibly using gifts and payments to influence the prescribing practices of medical professionals like nurse practitioners and physicians assistants. That’s why it is absolutely essential that pharmaceutical companies disclose gifts and payments made to additional health care providers who prescribe opioids and other drugs – not just doctors,” Blumenthal said. “Our bipartisan bill will rein in bad behavior by increasing transparency and accountability across the healthcare industry. Increased access to information is in the public’s best interest, and this legislation will ensure healthcare consumers receive safe, efficient, and cost-effective practices.”