Latest Senate opioid push: Support interoperability between FDA and border patrol

Proposed by Sen. Lamar Alexander, the bill would improve the FDA’s infrastructure to support real-time data sharing between the agency and Customs and Border Protection.
By Jessica Davis
01:16 PM
Senate opioid crisis

Legislation proposed this week by Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, would bolster data sharing between the Food and Drug Administration and Customs and Border Protection, a move designed to provide the agencies with real-time data on controlled substances, like opioids, crossing the border.

The proposed bill would promote an interoperable system between the FDA and CBP as a way to crack down on the trafficking of illegal opioids, such as fentanyl. Alexander said the hope is the improved system would provide “smarter detection” of these drugs.

The bill would also upgrade the FDA’s facilities and provide physical upgrades to its lab capacity and physical infrastructure. This may include security upgrades to improve the ability to examine and detect opioids at import sites, such as mail facilities.

[Also: HHS plan for the opioid crisis: Track prescribing patterns with Medicaid data]

Further, the agencies would need to provide Congress with an update on these implementations within six months, including the progress on interoperable capabilities.

The legislation essentially outlines how the FDA can spend the $94 million approved in Congress’ omnibus bill passed last week to upgrade tech and its infrastructure. It follows six bipartisan Senate HELP committee hearings held this year to address the growing opioid epidemic.

Congress has been pushing for interoperability between federal agencies in recent years, especially for health-related issues.

[Also: New York's opioid fight: PDMP now interoperable with 25 states, DC]

The proposal is just the latest in Congressional moves to combat opioid abuse.

In February, the Senate HELP committee proposed incentivizing states that share data with PDMPs. Another bipartisan Senate bill introduced last month would mandate electronic prescriptions for all controlled substances.

New York has had a similar law in place since 2016 and has reduced doctor-shopping incidents by more than 98 percent.

Opioid Crisis: Tech fights epidemic

Learn how tech is being used to battle abuse.

Twitter: @JessieFDavis
Email the writer: jessica.davis@himssmedia.com