Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa

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Grassley Partners on Bill to Stop Flow of Drugs to Pill Mills

Dec 17, 2019
WASHINGTON – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is cosponsoring bipartisan legislation to give the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) additional tools to hold drug distributors, manufacturers and pharmacies accountable for identifying, reporting and stopping suspicious orders of controlled substances. The Preventing Pill Mills Through Data Sharing Act was introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and also cosponsored by Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). The bill builds upon the Using Data to Prevent Opioid Diversion Act, which was enacted last year as a part of a comprehensive package to combat the opioid addiction crisis.
 
“As communities across the country continue to battle the flood of heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine and other illicit opioids, we can’t ignore the drug dealers wearing white coats. Bad actors in the legitimate medication supply chain have also contributed to the spread of opioid addiction and overdoes. In some cases, pharmacies have provided small communities with lethal volumes of highly-addictive pills – far beyond what could reasonably be prescribed. This bill ensures that the Drug Enforcement Agency is able to collect and share data necessary to identify and prevent suspicious drug orders. It builds on several bills I’ve pushed to attack the opioid crisis on multiple fronts,” Grassley said.
 
“Thousands of opioids, often bought from pharmacies, are flooding our communities and leading to devastatingly high levels of addiction and prescription drug-related overdose deaths. One West Virginia town of 392 people received nearly 9 million pills in a single year. We cannot allow pharmacies to order far more drugs than they can responsibly distribute, and drug manufacturers and distributors to supply them. The data needed to stop pharmacies from becoming pill mills already exists, we just have to make it accessible so suspicious orders can be spotted and reported to the authorities. That’s exactly what this bill does and I’m proud to introduce it with my colleagues,” Feinstein said.
 
“Our recent history in West Virginia, where millions of prescription opioids flowed freely into small communities throughout the state, demonstrates all too clearly why continued action is needed to ensure suspicious orders of controlled substances are detected, stopped, and those responsible held accountable. I’m glad to join Senator Feinstein in introducing this legislation that builds on our past bipartisan work and provides much needed next steps to guarantee the mistakes of the past are note repeated,” Capito said.
 
“We’ve seen opioids flood small towns in Illinois in volumes that are so dramatically high, no one would believe they were for legitimate medical needs. Our bill builds upon legislation we passed last year, and the recent Inspector General report, to hold DEA accountable and enhance oversight on the pharmaceutical industry’s excessive and unjustifiable shipment,” Durbin said.
 
A 2019 Justice Department inspector general report on the DEA’s response to the opioid crisis found that the current quarterly reporting requirement for drug manufacturers and distributors results in outdated reporting, hampering the detection of suspicious orders. The Preventing Pill Mills Through Data Sharing Act addresses this issue by:
  • Requiring drug manufacturers and distributors to report the sale, delivery or other disposal of all controlled substances on a monthly, rather than quarterly basis as current law requires;
 
  • Extending the penalties and reporting requirements that currently apply to drug manufacturers and distributors to pharmacies;
 
  • Requiring DEA to provide quarterly reports to manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies in a format and manner that better facilitates the identification of suspicious orders; and
 
  • Requiring DEA to provide Congress the same reports that it provides to states every six months, and expands the reporting requirements to include unusual volumes of controlled substances that are disposed of rather than sold, and unusual numbers of deleted transactions of high volumes of controlled substances.
 
Grassley has been a leader in battling the opioid addiction crisis for several years.  Earlier this year, Grassley, Feinstein and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) introduced the Stop Importation and Manufacturing of Synthetic Analogues (SIMSA) Act to target rapidly evolving synthetic drugs. Last year, Congress passed the landmark SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, which included seven opioid bills that Grassley advanced through the Senate Judiciary Committee as chairman. In 2016, Grassley led the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), a sweeping addiction recovery bill aimed at addressing the nation’s growing heroin and opioid addiction epidemic, through the Senate. The bill, which later became law, included a number of Grassley provisions to assist in the fight against methamphetamine.
 
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