Rounds bill to extend VA prescription data sharing on opioids heads to president for signature

The U.S. Senate last week passed bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) that aims to help the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) better address opioid abuse among the nation’s military members, and the measure now heads to President Donald Trump to be signed into law.

The VA Prescription Data Accountability Act of 2017, S. 1567 — scored by the Congressional Budget Office as a budget-neutral measure — would clarify existing law concerning VA data sharing with state Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs), which monitor controlled substances.

Currently, the VA’s health record system only allows the department to share prescription data on veterans, not on their dependents or others treated by VA providers, which means that state PDMPs don’t receive comprehensive VA prescription data.

The bill would update current law to give the VA authority to securely share data on the patients it has prescribed opioids to with state PDMPs, which Rounds indicated “are crucial systems that reinforce safe prescribing practices to cut down on opioid abuse and protect our veterans.”

The bill is timely considering the nation’s opioid abuse epidemic, the senator added.

“Sadly, many of our veterans suffer from addiction to prescription painkillers prescribed to them by doctors to treat pain or injuries stemming from their service to our country,” said Rounds, who serves on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

The bill garnered support from the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Association of the United States Navy.

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) sponsored the bill and joined Rounds in introducing it in July. The related House bill, H.R. 1545, was introduced on March 15 by Reps. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), and passed the full House earlier this year. The bill was presented on Nov. 17 to the president.