House to hold 2-day hearing to consider more than 20 opioid bills

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee will hear a set of more than 20 bipartisan bills during its second hearing focusing on addressing the opioid crisis, CNN has learned.

While most hearings on legislation don’t last more than a day, this hearing is scheduled to begin on March 21 and will last for two days, committee Republican aides tell CNN.

Last week at the US Chamber of Commerce, Energy and Commerce Committee chair Greg Walden announced four of the bills that would be included among the more than 20 being considered later this month. They include:

  • GOP Rep. Bob Latta’s bill, the INFO Act, which would streamline efforts within health organizations for grants and other funding related to opioids
  • The bipartisan bill called Jessie’s Law, which would require the Department of Health and Human Services to develop standards for hospitals and physicians to show a patient’s history of opioid addiction when receiving treatment
  • GOP Rep. Richard Hudson’s GAO request for research on ways to properly dispose of unused opioids
  • The bipartisan ACE Research Act, which would expand research efforts into opioids for the National Institutes of Health

The committee wants to send all of the opioids-related bills to the House floor for passage by Memorial Day.

This marks the second of three hearings the committee will hear on opioid-related legislation. Earlier this month, the subcommittee held a hearing to discuss eight bills, which focused on drug scheduling guidelines, disposal of medications, updating patient care laws and expanding access to underserved communities.

The committee is simultaneously conducting an investigation into high concentrations of opioid pills being distributed to pharmacies in communities in West Virginia, also known as “pill dumping.”

The House’s push for opioids legislation comes amid other Republican-led efforts in Washington to combat the opioid crisis, including the White House’s public campaign to address the issue.

But so far, it’s unclear exactly how much of an impact, if any, the federal response has had on preventing overdose addiction and death among the American population.

A Vital Signs report released Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that the problem may actually be getting worse. The report shows that emergency department visits due to suspected opioid overdoses continued to climb — by about 30% — from July 2016 to September 2017 across the country.