July 06,2016

Press Contact:

Taylor Harvey (202) 224-4515 

Wyden Disappointed in Multi-Million Dollar Windfall for Drug Makers Instead of Care for Pregnant Women in Opioid Conference Report

Conference Also Failed to Improve Transparency on Federal Advisory Panels

WASHINGTON Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today expressed disappointment in the results of the bicameral conference meeting on legislation to address the national opioid epidemic. In addition to a lack of funding in the bill, the conference voted down two amendments offered by Wyden, including one that would take away a $75 million dollar windfall to opioid manufacturers for their so-called abuse-deterrent formulation opioid products, and instead use the money to improve access to substance abuse treatment for women in Medicaid.

“Today, Congress had the opportunity to take common sense steps that would have a real impact on the opioid epidemic,” Wyden said. “I’m disappointed that many of my colleagues chose to give drug makers millions of dollars in kickbacks rather than helping pregnant women struggling with addiction. And when it came to increasing transparency on federal panels that advise on prescription opioid practices, Congress decided once again to let the fox guard the henhouse.”

As it stands, a provision in the conference report provides a special exception to the Medicaid drug rebate for certain opioids known as “abuse-deterrent formulations,” which are more difficult to crush up and snort than other opioids. There is little evidence that these drugs have a measurable impact on addiction deterrence and overdose rates. Additionally, opioid manufacturers are already making abuse-deterrent formulations, and have been for some time without any direct financial incentive from the federal government. The policy, known as the Medicaid in-line extension, would result in $75 million dollars flowing to drug makers, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Wyden offered an amendment that would strike this giveaway to drug makers, and instead use the funds to remove a barrier low-income, pregnant women in Medicaid seeking addiction treatment. Currently, they have to forfeit their critical primary care and pre-natal coverage in order to seek treatment for substance abuse.

Wyden also offered an amendment that would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop guidelines and procedures to ensure greater transparency among non-federal members of an interagency pain management task force that is to be created as a part of the opioid bill. The amendment comes as Wyden continues working to ensure members of federal panels, particularly those advising government agencies on opioids, are properly and publicly disclosing potential conflicts of interest.