New law aims to ensure access to medication while curbing Rx drug abuse

Bill had bipartisan support and pharmacy groups’ backing

On April 19, President Barack Obama signed the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act (S. 483), legislation that aims to enhance collaboration between the health care industry and law enforcement to maintain patient access to medication while pursuing drug enforcement solutions. Pharmacists will have a key role in advancing the law’s goals.

“S.483 reflects that idea that solutions to address prescription drug abuse should include efforts from a variety of stakeholders without unnecessarily restricting patient access,” said Jenna Ventresca, JD, APhA Associate Director of Health Policy.

S.483 had bipartisan support, with the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) releasing a statement singling out Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Reps. Tom Marino (R-PA) and Peter Welch (D-VT) for their efforts to send the bill to the president’s desk.

A study commissioned by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) showed that the bill reflected public opinion: 8 in 10 respondents said they believe pharmacists should work with law enforcement to stop prescription drug abuse while helping patients get the medication they need.

“This legislation is consistent with NACDS’s position that the complexity of these issues demands a 100% commitment to patient care and a zero tolerance for abuse,” said NACDS President and CEO Steven C. Anderson in a March 17 news release.

Hatch applauded the legislation’s passage in a news release. “This bill will motivate drug manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies to step up efforts to prevent diversion of drugs for improper purposes. At the same time, it will put in place safeguards to ensure that patients who truly need medications are able to get them," said Hatch.