U.S. House Unanimously Approved Legislation to Combat Opioid Overdoes

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Elsewhere, the House on Friday almost unanimously approved legislation to combat opioid overdoses after Democrats dropped their opposition to the bill at the last minute. The 407-5 vote all but assures that the legislation will sail through the Senate and head to President Obama’s desk this week.

The bill, a top priority for GOP leaders, is expected to be one of Congress’s biggest achievements this year. One of the leaders of the effort, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), called it “the most serious and comprehensive effort ever untaken by this body to tackle this problem.”

The bill’s fate had been in flux as recently as Thursday because Democrats said it provided far too little funding for treatment, and they had refused to sign off on the final report. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, announced just minutes before the vote that he had decided to support the package

“. . .after much thought. It is not perfect, and does not do nearly enough from a funding perspective, but it makes some important steps that will allow us to begin to address the opioid addiction crisis that is impacting our nation,” Pallone said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also signaled she would support the bill on Friday.

Steve’s Take: What’s this? Consensus; actual agreement on something? I’m actually stunned that this latest Congress can find anything upon which to agree.

A little digging and I found that drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., with 47,055 lethal drug overdoses in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 18,893 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers. Granted, that’s a big number that needs to come way down.

It’s become de rigueur on Capitol Hill and in the main stream media to call opiod overdoses an “epidemic” and “addiction crisis.” Okay, it’s a growing tragedy and needs to be blunted, starting now.

But after heart disease and cancer, medical errors kill more Americans than anything else, claiming a quarter of a million lives a year, according to a study reported in the British Medical Journal. Such errors are more deadly than car crashes, breast cancer, or AIDS.

Even that huge figure, they say, probably underestimates the actual toll, because it includes only deaths in hospitals, not in out-patient surgery centers, nursing homes, or other healthcare settings. Now that’s an epidemic.