On July 12, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on “Strengthening our National Trauma System.” As part of the hearing, the Subcommittee heard from witnesses about the Preserving Patient Access to Emergency Medications Act (H.R. 4365). The AAA strongly supports H.R. 4365 which would ensure that EMS personnel can continue to administer controlled substances to patients. The AAA submitted written testimony for the hearing record which can be accessed here and read below.
The American Ambulance Association (AAA) thanks the Chairman, Ranking Member, and Members of the Subcommittee on Health for holding a hearing to consider proposals to improve and strengthen the national trauma system. The AAA represents hundreds of ambulance services across the United States that participate in emergency and nonemergency health care and medical transportation. The Association serves as a voice and clearinghouse for ambulance services, and views prehospital care not only as a public service, but also as an essential part of the total public health care system. To that end, we urge Congress to pass the Protecting Patient Access to Emergency Medications Act of 2016 (H.R. 4365) by Congressman Hudson (R-NC). This legislation is necessary to ensure that patients in need of emergency medical care have access to life-saving medications.
A longstanding practice has allowed Emergency Medical Services (EMS) practitioners to administer and deliver controlled substances under the oversight of physicians through directional guidelines known as standing orders. The use of standing orders allows EMS personnel who are the often the entry point into the health care system to administer potentially life-saving drugs as quickly as possible to patients in emergency situations. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration has determined that the Controlled Substances Act as currently written prohibits EMS personnel from administering such medications to patients through standing orders. This endangers lives by limiting access to emergency medications that seriously ill or injured patients may need.
Congressman Hudson’s legislation would remedy this situation by clarifying that EMS agencies are allowed to use standing orders from their medical director to administer controlled substances to patients. Codifying this current practice will ensure that EMS practitioners and patients do not see any disruption in the provision of emergency care. H.R. 4365 would also permit EMS agencies to register directly with the DEA; require each EMS agency to have one or more medical directors; allow a single registration for an EMS agency, not a separate registration for each location; and update requirements for EMS agencies’ receipt, storage, and tracking of controlled substances.
The unique nature of mobile emergency medical services sets us apart from other health care services governed by the Controlled Substances Act. H.R. 4365 is needed to ensure that regulatory oversight to prevent abuse of controlled substances does not threaten the provision of time-sensitive emergency medical care to those with critical injuries and illnesses. The AAA respectfully requests that the Committee move expeditiously to support this vital legislation so that our nation’s EMS practitioners can care effectively for patients in need.