Gus Bilirakis Wants HHS to Balance Solving Opioid Epidemic With Patient Needs

Bilirakis wants more help from HHS



This week, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide more information about how to balance efforts to combat the opioid crisis with legitimate needs of patients.

Bilirakis said this week that the federal government must be able to find a way to navigate this increasingly complex problem.

“I hear this concern from constituents on a daily basis, especially among seniors,” Bilirakis said on Wednesday. “It is not a new problem, but has seemed to intensify in recent years. In 2015, I first questioned then head of DEA’s Office of Diversion Control, Joe Rannazzisi about this issue. In 2016, I co-sponsored the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016, because of a provision in the bill which required all federal stakeholders to work together to prevent opioid abuse without jeopardizing patient access to their medications.”

Bilirakis pointed to Section 3(a) of that law, with his office noting it “specifically requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to submit an interagency report to Congress containing this critical information within one year of enactment.” The congressman also noted that, so far, Congress has not seen that report.

“This issue is very important to me personally, and to my constituents,” Bilirakis said. “Public policy must ensure a delicate balance of putting necessary safeguards in place to prevent abuse while ensuring access to medication for those with legitimate pain. It also must respect the critical role of trained medical professionals, and not politicians, in developing appropriate treatment plans.”

Bilirakis called on U.S. HHS Sec. Alex Azar to “expedite the delivery of this information so members of Congress can take appropriate next steps to address the problem in a responsible manner.”

On Monday, Bilirakis wrote Azar on the matter, urging him to send the report to Congress.