Pubdate: Sat, 05 Nov 2005
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Page: A13
Copyright: 2005 The Washington Post Company
Author: Marc Kaufman, Washington Post Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Chronic Pain)
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)


A House-Senate conference committee yesterday dropped a controversial 
provision that gave the Drug Enforcement Administration authority to 
review, and potentially block, the sale of all new prescription narcotics.

The legislation, promoted by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) and attached 
to a multi-department appropriations bill, passed last year with 
little notice. But this year the Food and Drug Administration, many 
drug makers and doctors who treat pain patients objected to renewing 
it, and the provision was stripped from the bill.

Opponents said the provision was an unwarranted intrusion by a law 
enforcement agency into the FDA's drug-review system. Pain 
specialists also said the DEA reviews could jeopardize development of 
new drugs needed by patients with chronic pain.

Wolf's spokesman, Dan Scandling, said that Congress had missed an 
opportunity to better control the sale of powerful new narcotic painkillers.

"The goal behind it was to prevent another OxyContin," he said, 
referring to the popular painkiller that has been subject to abuse. 
"Now that oversight isn't going to be there."

John Scofield, spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee, said 
the provision was dropped at the request of the Senate, which did not 
include it in its version of the appropriations bill.

The dispute over the measure, and the almost $50 million in 
additional DEA funding attached to it, reflect a wider debate over 
the DEA's proper role in monitoring the use of prescription painkillers.

The agency has arrested scores of doctors, pharmacists and other 
health-care workers accused of negligence or willful diversion in 
dispensing prescription narcotics that were later abused. Pain 
doctors complained that, as a result, many physicians have stopped 
prescribing needed painkillers.

The same conference committee also approved language proposed by Rep. 
Anne M. Northup (R-Ky.) that would bar the Office of the U.S. Trade 
Representative from including provisions in future trade agreements 
that would make it almost impossible to import prescription drugs 
from foreign countries. The last three agreements -- with Singapore, 
Australia and Morocco -- included language that barred importation of 
drugs even if the practice were legalized in the future. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake