U.S. House bill pushes non-opioid alternatives

WASHINGTON — U.S. representatives from West Virginia and Alabama have introduced a bill to expand access for seniors to non-opioid alternatives.

The Non-Opioids Prevent Addiction in the Nation Act eases the barriers to non-opioid pain management for seniors enrolled in Medicare, according to Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va.

The bill would address payment disincentives for practitioners to prescribe non-opioid treatment alternatives in surgical settings by requiring the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to place non-opioid treatments on par with other separately paid drugs and devices in Medicare Part B.

“Currently, our healthcare payment system is unnecessarily encouraging the use of opioids,” McKinley said. “Our bill would ensure that CMS does not disincentivize the use of innovative non-opioid drugs and devices to treat and manage pain. While pain management for all patients should be handled individually, opioids should not be the first or only option given.”

The legislation was introduced on Wednesday by McKinley and Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala.

“Non-opioid treatments and therapies can be successful in replacing, delaying or reducing the use of opioids to treat post-surgical pain, and reduce the risk of opioid addiction,” Sewell said. “The NOPAIN Act would reduce disincentives for practitioners to provide patients enrolled in Medicare with non-opioid pain management, giving doctors the ability to prescribe treatments that are best-suited for their patients’ needs.”

West Virginia has among the highest rate of opioid-related deaths in the nation, nearly 50 per 100,000 people, almost three-times higher than the national rate of 14.6 per 100,000 people, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.