Senate Approves Opioid Crisis Response Act with Key Commerce Committee Provisions

Fighting Opioid Abuse in Transportation Act and Opioid Addiction Recovery Fraud Prevention Act advance to House of Representatives

September 17, 2018

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, issued the following statement on Senate passage, by a vote of 99-1, of the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 (H.R. 6), which includes provisions addressing a national drug and health crisis including measures approved by the Commerce Committee.

“The opioid crisis is a nationwide epidemic that needs to be fought on all fronts, which means Congress has a critical role to play in providing important tools to communities that are facing this issue head-on. I’m proud of the collective effort that senators from both sides of the aisle have dedicated to finding common ground to address this ongoing problem. Today this bill is one step closer to the president’s desk, and we are one step closer to providing much-needed assistance to those who need it the most. I hope my colleagues in the House will consider this important piece of legislation without delay.”

The Opioid Crisis Response Act includes two bills, sponsored respectively by Thune and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), approved earlier this year by the Commerce Committee:

S. 2848, Fighting Opioid Abuse in Transportation Act

Sponsor: Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)

Transportation workers provide essential services for and in our communities: taking children to school, bringing goods to market, repairing locomotives. Because so many people place trust in transportation workers doing their jobs to keep us safe, it is especially important that we do all we can to ensure their responsibilities are not compromised by drug and alcohol abuse.

What it does:

  • Closes a safety gap in railroad drug and alcohol testing regulations by expanding testing requirements to both rail mechanical employees and yardmasters. 
  • Addresses a major on-going drug abuse issue by requiring that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) include fentanyl in the drug-testing panel, subject to findings on available testing.
  • Advances a more expedient and less invasive testing method by setting a deadline for HHS to issue mandatory guidelines on oral fluid testing.
  • Increases transparency by requiring DOT to create a publicly available database of drug and alcohol testing data and requiring the Government Accountability Office to review DOT’s collection, use, and availability of drug and alcohol testing data.
  • Provides increased oversight of legally required safety improvements – the hair testing guidelines and DOT commercial driver’s license drug and alcohol clearinghouse.

S. 2842, Opioid Addiction Recovery Fraud Prevention Act of 2018 

Sponsors: Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.)

An industry of fraudulent addiction treatment programs, recovery centers and products has sprouted up to take advantage of the need and uncertainty associated with opioid addiction. These corrupt centers prey on those seeking help through the use of targeted marketing practices, including online advertisements, referral call centers, and paid bounties to unscrupulous salespeople. By empowering the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general, this legislation will help hold deceptive and fraudulent actors accountable.

What it does: 

  • Clarifies and reaffirms the power of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to bring enforcement actions against opioid treatment scams, including deceptive treatment claims and bogus products. 
  • Provides additional tools, including civil penalties, to the FTC to ensure bad actors face penalties and to create strong deterrents to these unlawful practices. 
  • Protects individuals with opioid use disorder and their families from harmful and misleading addiction treatment programs or products.
  • Empowers state Attorneys General to enforce these provisions to protect against fraudulent treatments and to ensure additional cops on the beat.

Also included in The Opioid Crisis Response Act is Thune’s e-TREAT Act, which was approved by the Finance Committee earlier this year.