Dunn introduces bill to protect veterans from opioid abuse

Legislation Connects the VA to a National Network of Rx Monitoring Databases

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Neal Dunn, M.D. (FL-02), Tuesday introduced the Veterans Opioid Abuse Prevention Act, an important step in the fight against the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Dunn’s bill directs Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin to connect VA health care providers to a national network of state-based prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs). PDMPs track prescribing data to identify abuse patterns in patients.

Just like private sector physicians, VA doctors consult state-based PDMPs before prescribing potentially dangerous pain medications to veterans. VA doctors, however, lack the ability to consult a national network of state-based PDMPs that can identify someone from another state who is at high risk for abuse, overdose, and death.

“More than 140 people in the U.S. die from opioid abuse each day, and veterans are twice as likely than civilians. This is unacceptable,” said Dr. Dunn, himself an Army veteran and member of the House VA Committee. “This bill instructs the VA to do what more and more private doctors are doing – connect to the national drug monitoring databases so no one slips through the cracks.”

The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis issued a preliminary report in July that cited the lack of cross-state interoperability as one significant shortcoming of state PDMPs. The Commission recommended “enhancing interstate data sharing among state-based prescription drug monitoring programs.”

Existing national networks of state PDMPs allow providers to confidentially access prescribing data and history across state lines. Access to these networks will help VA health care workers prevent and stop opioid abuse among our veterans.

“We cannot stand silent and watch prescription opioid abuse destroy the lives of those who fought for our freedoms,” added Dr. Dunn.

In February, Dr. Dunn questioned VA officials in committee about the epidemic of prescription drug abuse among veterans and VA handling of controlled substances.

The legislation is cosponsored by Representatives Claudia Tenney (NY-22), Bruce Poliquin (ME-02), Jodey Arrington (TX-19), and Paul Tonko (NY-20).