The U.S. Attorney General should convene a national summit on the growing problem of the prescription drug abuse, which Center for Disease Control describes as an epidemic.
That recommendation is included in the annual spending bill approved last week in the House that funds the Department of Justice, according to Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the House Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations subcommittee.
The measure also directs U.S. Attorneys around the country to step up investigations of so-called “pill mills,” pain clinics serving as fronts for the illegal distribution of addictive pain.
“The number of Americans abusing prescription drugs today is staggering,” Wolf said, citing the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health that said more Americans abuse prescription drugs than the number of those using cocaine, heroin and hallucinogens combined. “We need to do more to shut down these centers that just hand out prescriptions and stop the practice of doctor shopping.”
The summit should focus on reducing prescription drug diversion, including the establishment of prescription drug monitoring programs, proper drug disposal and increased enforcement of “pill mills” and doctor shopping, Wolf said.
These directives are in the House version of the fiscal year 2013 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill, which is 3 percent ($1.6 billion) below the fiscal year 2012 spending level and 1.4 percent below the president’s request. The House bill also recommends terminating 37 programs, at a savings of more than $300 million. The Senate has yet to take up its version of the bill. Differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill are expected to be hammered out this summer.
Wolf has a long record of working to bring attention to the problem of prescription drug abuse, especially oxycontin. Most recently, he co-sponsored the “Stop Oxy Abuse Act” (H.R. 1316), which would change U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifications to ensure that drugs containing controlled-release oxycodone hydrochloride only be allowed to be prescribed for patients with severe pain.
Wolf also joined with House Appropriations Committee chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) to introduce legislation in March to establish a standardized system for states to share prescription data to help doctors, pharmacists and authorized law enforcement officials monitor patients seeking multiple orders for painkillers and other drugs. Wolf has emphasized that privacy and the protection of personal data would be a priority when creating a national standard.
Wolf also has worked with the DEA to coordinate a nationwide prescription drug “take-back” initiative so that people can return unwanted or unused drugs for proper disposal. This year’s Drug Take-Back Day on April 28 collected 276 tons of unwanted or expired medications for safe and proper disposal at more than 5,600 across the country, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
For more information on Wolf’s efforts to combat prescription drug abuse visit wolf.house.gov.