Congress could send its sweeping opioids package to President Trump by week’s end after lawmakers reached an agreement on a final bill to address the nation’s public health crisis, the Washington Post reports. Several issues held up negotiations, but the biggest controversy had nothing to do with opioids at all. The pharmaceutical industry was pushing for language into the popular opioids’ package that would ease how much it owed in covering some Medicare drug costs. A a concerted effort by patient-advocate groups successfully blocked the last-minute add that would have given drug companies a $4 billion windfall. Groups like the AARP, the American Hospital Association and the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing blasted the move, assailing the drug industry for trying to insert its own interests into the process as lawmakers from both chambers hammered out differences in the House and Senate-passed bills..
In a joint statement, House and Senate lawmakers who negotiated the deal said, “Once signed into law, this legislation sends help to our communities fighting on the front lines of the crisis and to the millions of families affected by opioid use disorder. While there is more work to be done, this bipartisan legislation takes an important step forward and will save lives.” Te House version of the opioid bill contained a provision that would have given the attorney general sweeping power to schedule and set penalties for the synthetic and deadly drug fentanyl and other drug compounds. Criminal justice reform advocates fought against it, calling attempts to include such language a reboot of the “war on drugs.” The provision did not make it into the final version.