Pharma

Congress introduces the Alternatives to PAIN Act to prevent opioid addiction

With the opioid epidemic only worsening, it’s important to ensure that everyone can have access to non-opioid medication.
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Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.

Older adults aren’t immune to addiction.

New bipartisan federal legislation introduced in January aims to improve access to non-opioid pain medication for Medicare Plan D beneficiaries, preventing unnecessary exposure to opioids.

Under the Alternatives to Prevent Addiction in the Nation (PAIN) Act, Medicare Part D beneficiaries would have their cost-sharing for non-opioid medication limited to no more than they would pay for the generic tier. The act would also prohibit the use of step therapy and prior authorization for non-opioid drugs, limiting patient exposure to opioids and giving them easier access to other options.

Chris Fox, executive director of the Voices for Non-Opioid Choices coalition, told Healthcare Brew that opioid prevention in healthcare ultimately comes down to two things: affordability and accessibility.

“When you tell a patient, ‘You can have that generic opioid for $1 […] or you can have access to this non-opioid, but that’s going to be $75,’ sometimes that dollar choice will dictate what a patient chooses,” Fox said. “Similarly, if you say, ‘We’ll get you access to [non-opioid] medications, but you have to get X number of doctors to sign on that prescription,’ [it hinders] patient access to those medications.”

More than 1.1 million older adults received an opioid use disorder diagnosis in 2021, according to a news release from California Democratic Representative Tony Cárdenas’s office. The percentage of US adults ages 65 and older who died from a natural or semisynthetic opioid overdose increased by 63% between 2012 and 2020, per the release.

The bill, which Cárdenas and Republican Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks from Iowa co-sponsored, will need “a companion piece” in the Senate before it goes to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.

Navigate the healthcare industry

Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.