April 19, 2018

Warren and Capito Introduce Bill to Advance Partial Fill Option for Opioid Prescriptions

Senators Successfully Secured Legislation's Inclusion in Senate HELP Committee's New Bipartisan Package of Opioid Bills; Legislation Requires CDC to Educate Health Care Providers, Patients, and Public About Partial Fill Option

Bill Text (PDF)

Washington, DC -- United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) today announced the introduction of the Unused Medication Awareness Act to improve implementation of the bipartisan law they worked to pass in 2016 and to ensure that more doctors and patients know about the option to partially fill opioid prescriptions. Warren and Capito successfully secured the inclusion of the Unused Medication Awareness Act's provisions as part of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee's new bipartisan package of opioid crisis response bills released this week.

The legislation builds on the senators' Reducing Unused Medications Act of 2016, which allows prescriptions for opioid medications to be partially filled by pharmacists at the request of patients and doctors, cutting down on the number of unused painkillers in circulation. The Reducing Unused Medications Act became law as part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) of 2016.

When patients have the option to partially fill a prescription for opioids, they can choose to take home only a few days' worth of pills - and then return to the pharmacy for more of their prescription if their pain persists. Reducing unused prescription painkillers is a key part of tackling the opioid crisis, which has been fueled by an increase in the number of opioid prescriptions.

After the legislation became law, Senators Warren and Capito sent a series of letters to every governor in the country and major medical organizations to gather feedback on the implementation of the new partial fill option. Responses indicated that while states and medical groups are eager to increase the partial filling of prescriptions, implementation of the new law remains uneven.

"To more effectively tackle the opioid crisis, patients and their health care providers first need to know about the option to partially fill a prescription. This legislation will help achieve that goal," said Senator Warren. "I'm glad to continue working with Senator Capito to empower patients and health care providers to determine appropriate pain treatment, while reducing unused opioids in family medicine cabinets."

"Pursuing a spectrum of solutions is critical to effectively ending the opioid epidemic," Senator Capito said. "Allowing the partial filling of opioid prescriptions is one way we can reduce the drug supply and prevent unused prescriptions from ending up in the wrong hands. Health care providers are crucial partners in this fight, and this bill will help provide them with the knowledge necessary to treat patients responsibly."

The Unused Medication Awareness Act would build on the senators' bipartisan legislation by requiring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to advance education and awareness of the risk of unused opioids and of the option to partially fill an opioid prescription. These educational measures would be part of a series of efforts, including public awareness campaigns, that the CDC is tasked with conducting to advance education and awareness around the risks of opioid misuse. Text of the bill is available here.