Congress targets misuse of hospice drugs

A little-noticed provision of the opioids legislation headed to President Donald Trump's desk for his expected signature would allow hospice workers to destroy patients' unneeded opioids, reducing the risk that families misuse them.

A little-noticed provision of the opioids legislation headed to President Donald Trump's desk for his expected signature would allow hospice workers to destroy patients' unneeded opioids, reducing the risk that families misuse them. The bill would give hospice staff authority to destroy opioid medications that are expired, no longer needed by the patient because of a change in treatment, or leftover after the patient dies. Under current law, hospices cannot directly destroy patients’ unneeded opioid medications in the home. Instead, they direct families to mix them with kitty litter or coffee grounds before throwing them in the trash. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization applauded the proposed change in policy. "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," the group said in a statement. The legislation requires hospices to document policies on the disposal of opioid medications, and to discuss those policies with families. It also calls for the Government Accountability Office to study hospices' disposal of controlled substances in patients’ homes.