Healthcare on the Hill - Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO) in the Emergency Department Act (S2516)

March 19, 2018

S2516: Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO) in the Emergency Department Act

This bill was introduced by Senator Corey Booker (D-NJ) on 3/7/2018 and cosponsored by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Shelley Capito (R-WV), Cory Gardner (R-CO). The bill is intended to direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a 3 year demonstration program to study alternative pain management protocols and treatments that promote the appropriate limited use of opioids in emergency departments. Under the bill the Secretary will provide grants to eligible hospitals to implement the program.

The ER is often a place where patients are often first prescribed opioids. Given the current opioid abuse crisis it makes sense to make sure they are only used when necessary. Of course patients in the ER are often in intense pain and need effective pain relief.

Several hospitals have already started programs to study and implement alternative methods and drugs for pain management. The emergency department at St. Joseph's University Medical Center in Paterson, N.J., has been exploring alternative painkillers and methods. That strategy has led to a 58 percent drop in the ER's opioid prescriptions in the program's first year, according to numbers provided by St. Joseph's Healthcare System's chair of emergency medicine, Dr. Mark Rosenberg.

Two years into the program, one physician in the ER found some shifts he did not prescribe a single opioid. He says he finds that “unbelievable.”

The full text of the bill can be found here:

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