Opioids bill permits hospice workers to destroy unused painkillers: 6 things to know

The bipartisan opioids bill, awaiting President Donald Trump's signature, would allow hospice workers to destroy a patient's unneeded opioids to reduce the risk of future misuse, according to Kaiser Health News.

Here are five things to know:

1. The bill would give hospice staff the ability to destroy opioid medications without formal patient consent that are expired, no longer needed by a patient or left over after a patient dies.

2. Painkillers prescribed to hospice patients can be stolen by neighbors, relatives and paid caregivers after patients die, according to a Kaiser Health News investigation published by The Washington Post.

3. Under current law, hospice services cannot destroy a patient's unneeded opioid medication in the home. Instead, hospice employees instruct families to combine opioids with coffee grounds or cat litter before throwing them away.

4. The opioid bill would require hospice employees to document opioid medication disposal and discuss those policies with families. It would also require the Government Accountability Office "to study hospices' disposal of controlled substances in patients' homes," according to Kaiser Health News.

5. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization supports the proposed policy change.

"Granting appropriate hospice professionals the legal authority to dispose of unused medication after a hospice patient's death would not only alleviate grieving families of this responsibility, but also help prevent potential diversion or illicit use of these drugs," NHPCO said in a statement cited by Kaiser Health News.

More articles on opioids: 

How the opioids bill seeks to address patient brokering

Limited access to addiction treatment pushes patients to Suboxone black market

3 ways to help opioid use disorder patients access specialized treatment

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