The Washington Times: Sen. Alexander proposes bill to empower FDA in opioids fight

Posted on March 26, 2018

By Tom Howell Jr. - The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2018

A few days after Congress approved billions in opioids funding, Sen. Lamar Alexander released draft legislation Monday urging the Food and Drug Administration to use its portion to upgrade inspection tools, expand labs and train more canine officers to detect and intercept deadly fentanyl that’s slipping through U.S. mail facilities.

Mr. Alexander, Tennessee Republican and chairman of the Senate Health Committee, said the $94 million allotment should also improve the agency’s coordination with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which screens foreign packages and flags drug shipments for the FDA.

Lawmakers say ports of entry are a key vulnerability in the fight against opioid addiction, which is killing tens of thousands of Americans each year.

The lack of data on incoming packages and limited resources make it difficult for screeners to interdict every parcel containing deadly fentanyl or other synthetic opioids from clandestine labs overseas, mostly in China.

“I want to ensure that the Food and Drug Administration has every tool it needs to fight the opioid crisis, and the draft legislation released today will take the next step towards making that possible,” Mr. Alexander said.

House lawmakers are considering additional legislation that would allow FDA inspectors to destroy a suspicious package when they can’t verify the bona fides of its contents, rather than sending it back to bad actors who many try again.

The push is part of a government-wide effort to rein in the opioid crisis before it gets worse. Last week, Congress approved a record $4 billion to combat the problem as part of its $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill.

Also Monday, Mr. Alexander released a draft bill that says the FDA can require drug makers to package certain opioids in blister packs with a set dose, saying it would put doctors and pharmacists in the habit of prescribing seven-day courses of treatment instead of authorizing unnecessary amounts that could diverted to the street.

It would also encourage manufacturers to include a safe way to dispose of leftover pills in any packaging.

Members of Congress have been touting devices like DisposeRX, a powder that will encased pills in gel — rendering them useless — when mixed with water.

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