House Passes Rep. Schiff Amendment to Opioid Legislation to Study Creation of National Database to Prevent “Doctor Shopping”

Washington, DC – This week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation to help combat the opioid crisis, H.R. 4641, which would create an Interagency Taskforce to update and clarify guidelines for pain management.  It would convene the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Defense (DOD), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and other agencies, to modify and update best practices for chronic and acute pain management and for doctors who prescribe pain medication. H.R. 4641 would include agencies at the federal level, as well as state medical boards, health care practitioners, pharmacists, experts from both the pain and addiction recovery community, actual patients, and other stakeholders. 

During the debate on the bill, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) offered an amendment that was passed unanimously, that would require the Task Force to consider ways to improve the sharing of data collected from State Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) across the country, including consideration of a national database. PDMPs allow physicians and pharmacists –among other eligible clinicians – to access a patient’s prescription drug history in an electronic database for controlled substances. 

This allows health care professionals to assess the risk for individual patients, identify signs of opioid abuse, and intervene before addiction spirals out of control.  PDMPs also prevent “doctor shopping” activities by individuals with no legitimate medical needs. And while individual state-run PDMPs are effective, there is no system currently in place to allow data to be shared nationally to deter “doctor shopping” across state lines.  The Schiff amendment encourages the Task Force to study the coordination and sharing of data between all State PDMPs, and a potentially national database.

Schiff spoke during the debate on his amendment: “While information sharing between some adjacent State PDMPs currently exists to prevent illicit ‘doctor shopping’ activities from occurring across state lines, I believe it’s time that we boost efforts to strengthen this sharing across all State PDMPs. I recently met with physicians from my district who described from their experience how prevalent the issue of ‘doctor shopping’ is – particularly in the state of California – and how it is becoming more and more common for individuals with histories of opioid abuse to attempt to receive illicit prescriptions in nearby states. With passage of this amendment, I urge the Task Force to explore the benefits of establishing a national PDMP that will vastly improve our ability to prevent and disincentivize ‘doctor shopping’ in all regions of the country – and I look forward to working with other concerned members on this important topic.”

Schiff’s full remarks in support of his amendment can be found here. The legislation passed the House Wednesday night 412-4.