December 23, 2015

Bipartisan Group of Senators Urges DEA to Clarify "Partial Fill" Policies to Help Address Opioid Crisis

Full text of the letter available here (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) sent a bipartisan letter asking the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to clarify that partial filling of Schedule II opioid drugs is permitted under federal law.

"States like Massachusetts are considering policies that would give patients, their providers, and pharmacists the option to dispense opioid medication a few days' supply at a time, up to the total amount in the prescription, so that patients don't receive more drugs than they will use," wrote the senators. "These ‘partial-fill' policies could empower patients to work with their doctor and pharmacist to achieve the desired level of pain control while also limiting the amount of unused medication in their home."

But the Controlled Substances Act and the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act are both silent with regards to the partial filling of prescriptions. "While these regulations do not specifically prohibit partially filling prescriptions for Schedule II substances in other scenarios, the lack of clarity has deterred states from moving forward with partial fill policies," the senators wrote.  

The letter requests that the DEA "issue guidance or undertake the rulemaking process to clarify that Schedule II opioid drugs are permitted to be partially filled under federal law.  This modest change can make a big difference in our fight against the opioid epidemic."

Read a PDF copy of the letter here.