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Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster

Representing the 2nd District of New Hampshire

Kuster, Walorski Lead Bipartisan Letter Calling on VA Clinicians to Check State Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs

Oct 30, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, Representatives Annie Kuster (D-NH) and Jackie Walorski (R-IN) led a bipartisan group of 25 Members of Congress in calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide an update on their actions to ensure VA clinicians are complying with a law that aims to prevent overprescribing of opioids to veterans. The VA Prescription Data Accountability Act was introduced by Kuster in 2017, co-sponsored by Walorski, and enacted with bipartisan support. The legislation requires VA clinicians to check prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) for patients receiving opioid therapy.  A recent report from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that most VA clinicians are not adhering to the law and two-thirds of clinicians are unaware of the policy altogether.

“In light of the nationwide epidemic of prescription drug abuse, which has had a significant impact on veterans, we firmly believe that PDMP databases have proven effective and are valuable tools in tracking the coordination of prescriptions, preventing drug abuse and diversion, and reducing doctor shopping,” wrote the members. “We request an update on the actions VA is taking to carry out the recommendations outlined in the OIG report in order to ensure that VA clinicians are in full compliance with the law and providing the level of care our veterans deserve.”

PDMPs are statewide electronic databases that track controlled substance prescriptions. They can provide health authorities with up to date information about prescribing and patient behaviors that fuel the opioid epidemic and facilitate a smart, targeted response. Legislation introduced by Walorski, co-sponsored by Kuster, and passed into law in 2016 as part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act requires VA to share information with state PDMPs in order to prevent overprescribing of opioids.

The full text of the letter is available here and below:

October 30, 2019

 

The Honorable Robert Wilkie

Secretary

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20420

 

Dear Secretary Wilkie,

As members of Congress who have been actively involved in crafting policy to prevent the overprescribing of opioids to veterans, we write with concern over a recent report (#18-02830-164) from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) that found most Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) clinicians are not adhering to requirements to check state prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) for patients engaged with opioid therapy. 

Specifically, the report found that from April 1, 2017, through March 31, 2018, VA clinicians failed to check PDMP databases for 567,000 of the 779,000 VA patients who are currently undergoing treatment with opioids.  It is estimated that 107,000 of the 567,000 patients for whom VA clinicians failed to make the required PDMP checks were at risk for opioid abuse or addiction due to poorly managed opioid treatment.  Even more concerning, two-thirds of the 66 VA clinicians who were interviewed said they were unaware of the department policy regarding PDMPs, and only a quarter received training on PDMPs. 

As you are aware, Veterans Administration Medical Centers (VAMCs) previously had the option to voluntarily report data to PDMPs, but were not mandated to do so as are all other doctors and pharmacists.  This created a glaring void in reporting that left veterans, already at an increased risk of abuse, even more vulnerable.  In response to this situation, we worked together to enact legislation during the 114th Congress requiring the VA to report to state PDMPs.  In light of the nationwide epidemic of prescription drug abuse, which has had a significant impact on veterans, we firmly believe that PDMP databases have proven effective and are valuable tools in tracking the coordination of prescriptions, preventing drug abuse and diversion, and reducing doctor shopping. 

We request an update on the actions VA is taking to carry out the recommendations outlined in the OIG report in order to ensure that VA clinicians are in full compliance with the law and providing the level of care our veterans deserve.  If you have any questions, your staff can contact Stephen Simonetti at stephen.simonetti@mail.house.gov or 202-225-3915, or Melanie Spears at melanie.spears@mail.house.gov or 202-225-5206. 

We look forward to your response. 

Sincerely,                                                                        

Jackie Walorski                                                    Ann McLane Kuster

Member of Congress                                            Member of Congress

 

James R. Baird                                                      Jim Banks

Member of Congress                                            Member of Congress

 

Gus M. Bilirakis                                                   Lisa Blunt Rochester       

Member of Congress                                            Member of Congress

 

Susan W. Brooks                                                  Julia Brownley

Member of Congress                                            Member of Congress

 

Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr.                                        Ted Deutch

Member of Congress                                            Member of Congress

 

Bill Foster                                                             Ron Kind

Member of Congress                                            Member of Congress

 

Conor Lamb                                                          Rick Larsen

Member of Congress                                            Member of Congress

 

Susie Lee                                                              Tom O’Halleran

Member of Congress                                            Member of Congress

 

Chris Pappas                                                         Collin C. Peterson

Member of Congress                                            Member of Congress

 

Guy Reschenthaler                                                Max Rose

Member of Congress                                             Member of Congress

 

Mary Gay Scanlon                                                Elise M. Stefanik

Member of Congress                                            Member of Congress

 

David Trone                                                          Michael R. Turner

Member of Congress                                            Member of Congress

 

Brad Wenstrup

Member of Congress

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