Laura Cranston, RPh, Chief Executive Officer, Pharmacy Quality Alliance, on the approval of federal legislation to combat the opioid epidemic

October 5, 2018

The Pharmacy Quality Alliance (PQA) applauds the bipartisan work of Congress to mitigate the opioid epidemic and ensure the safe and appropriate use of opioid medications through the passage of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (H.R. 6).

We are encouraged by the legislation’s focus on quality measures (Sec. 6093) to evaluate and improve opioid medication use and opioid use disorder treatments provided through Medicare and other federal health care programs. The legislation instructs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a technical expert panel to review quality measures relating to opioids and opioid use disorders. That panel will review quality measures in use or in development, identify gaps in and priorities for quality measurement, and make recommendations on quality measures with the goal of improving care, prevention, diagnosis, health outcomes, and treatment.

As a national leader in developing quality measures for the safe and appropriate use of opioids, PQA is poised to help the nation make recommendations for quality measures, develop new measures, and support their effective implementation into clinical care. Established in 2006 as a public private-partnership with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), PQA develops quality measures through a transparent, consensus-driven, and multi-stakeholder process to support medication safety, adherence, and appropriate use.

PQA has developed an Opioid Core Measure set, which includes four opioid measures to provide important and timely tools to address the opioid epidemic. The measures evaluate patients with prescriptions for opioids in combination with benzodiazepines, at high-dosage, or from multiple prescribers and pharmacies. These quality measures are used by Medicare and Medicaid and have been endorsed or implemented by numerous other healthcare organizations, including the National Quality Forum.

Additionally, PQA is developing three measures to address initial opioid prescribing. These measures are aligned with the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain to evaluate prescriptions at increased risk for opioid use disorder. The measures evaluate initial opioid prescribing for long-acting or extended-release opioids, long duration, or high dose. PQA expects these measures to be endorsed and used in the first half of 2019.

While more funding and additional strategies are needed to fight the opioid addiction crisis, we are encouraged by this bipartisan effort to expand treatment and better equip clinicians, communities and the patients they serve to appropriately use medications and address misuse and abuse.


Contact: Richard Schmitz, PQA Senior Director of Communications, [email protected] or 703-347-7931