December 19, 2018
ARLINGTON, Va. — On the release of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s review of opioid distribution in West Virginia, the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) released the following statement.
“We appreciate the continued efforts by members of the committee and Congress to address the opioid epidemic, including the recently enacted law (the SUPPORT Act) that will improve communication and data sharing between distributors and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and, as a result, strengthen enforcement.
“As the committee notes, the report reflects only one piece of a multifaceted issue. According to a recent report by Avalere Health, the root causes contributing to the epidemic are complex, including decades of federal policy and clinical practice that encouraged opioids as the primary option for pain management.
“It is also important to understand where the distributors’ role in the supply chain begins and ends. Distributors are logistics experts, providing the safe and timely delivery of all medicines each day to licensed pharmacies tied to prescriptions written by licensed physicians. Distributors do not manufacture, prescribe or drive demand for opioids, nor do they promote their use to doctors or patients. Distributors rely on providers and pharmacists to adhere to the Controlled Substances Act and to follow medical guidelines around safe and effective opioid prescribing.
“There is only one entity authorized by Congress with the full legal authority to control the supply of controlled substances — the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The DEA is required to ascertain the ‘legitimate medical need’ for opioids each year and allocate raw material to manufacturers for opioid production. The committee notes the dramatic change in the practice of medicine that resulted in year-over-year increases in the number of opioid prescriptions written by doctors beginning in the 1990s. The effect of that change in medicine was DEA’s increase in the production quota of opioids, a fact that was not reflected in the report. Between 1993 and 2015, the DEA approved a 39-fold increase of oxycodone and a 12-fold increase of hydrocodone to keep up with the increases in physician prescribing of opioids. All parts of the supply chain were adversely impacted by the unprecedented dramatic change in the prescribing of these medications.
“HDA supports a range of policy solutions to reduce overprescribing and to drive down the supply of opioids where it is appropriate to do so. As an industry we will continue to work closely with regulators and law enforcement agencies to improve our coordination and data sharing and we look forward to collaborating with Congress to advance meaningful policy solutions that will stem the tide of opioid abuse moving forward.”
The Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) represents primary pharmaceutical distributors — the vital link between the nation’s pharmaceutical manufacturers and more than 200,000 pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics and others nationwide. Since 1876, HDA has helped members navigate regulations and innovations to get the right medicines to the right patients at the right time, safely and efficiently. The HDA Research Foundation, HDA’s non-profit charitable foundation, serves the healthcare industry by providing research and education focused on priority healthcare supply chain issues.