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Walberg Leads Bipartisan Effort to Prevent Opioid Abuse

February 15, 2018
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representative Tim Walberg (MI-07) introduced H.R. 5041, the Safe Disposal of Unused Medication Act, a bipartisan response to the opioid crisis that will help prevent the misuse or diversion of unused medications by equipping hospice professionals with the legal authority to safely dispose of unused drugs after a hospice patient’s death. Representatives Debbie Dingell (MI-12) and Richard Hudson (NC-08) joined as original cosponsors of the measure.

“Many patients receiving hospice care need painkillers to help with end-of-life pain, but any leftover medication can unfortunately end up in the wrong hands,” said Congressman Walberg. “Our bill equips hospices and caregivers with the right to destroy unused meds after a hospice patient passes away, helping to ensure that it is not diverted out into the community.”

“Ensuring that all unused opioids are safely disposed of and not diverted is an essential part of combating the opioid epidemic,” said Congresswoman Dingell. “The Safe Disposal of Unused Medication Act is a common sense solution that allows hospice workers to safely dispose of a patient’s unused pain medications in their home, reducing the risk for misuse in the community. We can only fully address the crisis through multifaceted approaches like this one.”

“Making sure unused drugs don’t end up in the wrong hands is one of the biggest problems we face in fighting the opioid crisis. I am proud to partner with Reps. Walberg and Dingell on this common sense legislation to allow trained hospice professionals to properly dispose of opioid medication after a patient has passed away. Combatting the opioid crisis is a priority of mine, and we will continue our critical work to save lives and restore our communities,” said Congressman Hudson.

In recent years, the diversion of unused opioids used to treat patients under in home hospice care has become an increasingly significant problem. While the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) encourages hospice staff to assist families to destroy leftover medications, agency regulations forbid hospice personnel from disposing of the medication themselves unless authorized by state law. H.R. 5041 is supported by the National Association for Home Care & Hospice and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.