Proposed Legislation to Fight Opioid Epidemic Addresses Hospice Disposal of Controlled Substances

Posted on Friday, March 2, 2018 2:18 PM

New legislation to help fight the opioid epidemic took center stage this week at a hearing in the House Subcommittee on Health. The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) has played an integral role in the crafting of H.R. 5041, the Safe Disposal of Unused Medication Act, which would authorize employees of a hospice program to handle controlled substances in the residence of a deceased hospice patient in order to assist in their disposal.

Currently dangerous medications prescribed to address pain in terminal patients are often left in the home of the patient because hospice staff may not handle or destroy them under current law in the United States.

Dr. John Mulder, director of the Trillium Institute and an expert on hospice and palliative care for over 30 years, was invited by NAHC to be a witness at the hearing. A “moderate sized hospice caring for 2,000 patients a year will prescribe approximately one million pills per year, the majority of which will be controlled substances,” said Dr. Mulder, which “yields potentially tens of thousands of pills in need of disposal, and at risk for misuse or diversion.” And that’s just from one single hospice.

H.R. 5041, sponsored by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI-7), would require qualifying hospice programs to have written policies and procedures for assisting in the disposal of the controlled substances and (consistent with existing hospice conditions of participation) must share a copy of the hospice’s policies for disposal and discuss them with the patient at the time the medication is dispensed.

Source: NAHC

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