Greg Walden Launches New Phase in Patient Brokering Investigation

October 4, 2019
Press Release
Continues effort to combat opioid epidemic

This week, Representatives Greg Walden (R-OR), Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Dr. Michael Burgess (R-TX) launched a new phase in the patient brokering investigation that began last Congress. This investigation occurs ahead of the fast approaching one-year-anniversary of the historic SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act becoming law.

The alarming practice of patient brokering occurs when individuals serve as intermediaries and profit from the recruitment of patients seeking treatment for substance use disorder. Last Congress, under the leadership of Walden, the Energy and Commerce Committee initiated an investigation into these allegations and further expanded the investigation into the broader advertising and marketing practices in the substance use disorder treatment industry.

Walden, Guthrie, and Burgess are requesting information on various aspects of the substance use disorder treatment industry to build on the findings from last Congress. This request for information comes as Committee Republicans called for a continuation of bipartisan work to combat the opioid crisis in February, and pressed the Administration for an update on SUPPORT Act implementation in August.

The three members said this request for information is an important step in the ongoing fight against the opioid crisis.

“The SUPPORT Act was not our first effort to combat the opioid crisis, and it certainly will not be our last. We must continue to fight the spread of substance use disorder in our communities, and that is exactly what we are doing with this request for information today. This fight is not over; we will not let up,” said Walden, Guthrie, and Burgess.

Media reports and Committee investigations have identified serious concerns about the quality of care provided at substance use disorder treatment facilities. Lapses in oversight within the substance use disorder treatment industry have left patients vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous business owners.

Committee Republicans are specifically requesting information regarding the challenges, failures, fraud, and abuse within the substance use disorder treatment industry. In addition, the request seeks information regarding suggested best practices and other ways to improve the quality of substance use disorder treatment.

Last year, Walden held an event with Mike and Winnie Pelfrey of Grants Pass. Their family has been personally impacted by opioid addiction. Their son was injured in a school sporting accident and became addicted to the prescription painkillers provided by his doctor to aid in his recovery. Eventually, their son made the all-too-familiar transition to a cheaper source: heroin. Their son eventually entered treatment, but fell victim to a patient brokering scheme where an inpatient treatment facility was far more concerned with cashing the Pelfreys’ checks than the treatment of their son. The Pelfreys are just one of many families who have stories like this to share, another reminder of the need to take action on this crisis.

Walden has been one of the nation’s leaders in combating the opioid crisis, working to pass historic legislation to combat opioid addiction, and investigating bad actors who are enabling the crisis to spread.