Rockefeller, Rahall reintroduce prescription drug bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Legislation to prevent prescription drug abuse has been re-introduced in the Senate and House by West Virginia congressmen.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., called prescription drug abuse a growing epidemic. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., cosponsored the Senate bill. West Virginia has among the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in the country with nine out of 10 drug-related deaths from the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs, especially opioid painkillers, Rockefeller said.

“I’ve reached out to West Virginians health care providers, schools, pharmacists asking for new ideas on how to reduce prescription drug abuse. This legislation reflects that real, on-the-ground feedback from West Virginia. And it addresses a complex problem in an equally intricate way,” Rockefeller said. “Prescription drug abuse is ripping our communities at the seams so we need a broad, no-holds-barred approach to tackling it. That’s what this legislation offers.”

The legislation precedes reports on Thursday about a 28-year-old Parkersburg man who died from an overdose of a prescription medication. The Parkersburg Police Department is awaiting a toxicology report from the medical examiner, Police Chief Joe Martin said.

More needs to be done on a federal level to increase patient awareness and better train health care providers to prevent and treat abuse, Rahall said. Rahall is a co-chairman of the Congressional Prescription Drug Abuse Caucus.

“The prescription drug abuse epidemic is hitting southern West Virginia hard and taking a heavy toll on our families and communities, as well as our businesses and workforce,” he said.

The Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, first introduced in 2011, would help decrease the number of opioid and methadone-related deaths in West Virginia and nationwide through:

* New training requirements for health care professionals before they can be licensed to prescribe these drugs;

* Consumer education on the safe use of painkillers and preventing diversion and abuse;

* Basic clinical standards for safe use and dosage of pain medications, including methadone;

* Increased federal support for state prescription drug monitoring programs; and

* Comprehensive reporting of opioid-related deaths to help guide solutions.

On Thursday Rockefeller and Rahall will participate in a discussion on prescription drug abuse at at the Marshall University Forensic Science Center. Topics will be the public health and safety challenges of prescription drug abuse and trafficking in West Virginia.

Also attending will be Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Kerlikowske also attended a similar meeting two years ago in West Virginia.