Bill aimed at preventing prescription drug abuse

CHARLESTON – West Virginia’s two U.S. senators are among the original sponsors of a bill intended to prevent prescription drug abuse.

The Safe Prescribing Act of 2013, reintroduced on Wednesday, tightens restrictions on some of the most powerful, addictive narcotics on the market. It will reclassify hydrocodone painkillers like Vicodin and Lortab from a Schedule III to a Schedule II controlled substance to more accurately reflect the drugs’ high potential for addiction and abuse.

“We have a responsibility to this great nation of ours, especially to our children, to win this war on prescription drug abuse. Drugs containing hydrocodone are some of the most abused substances in West Virginia and across the country,” Manchin said. “This growing nationwide prescription drug abuse epidemic with drugs containing hydrocodone has already destroyed too many communities and devastated too many families. The heart-wrenching stories I hear from so many West Virginians underscore the serious need to immediately reschedule hydrocodone.”

Under the new restrictions, a written prescription would be required in order to receive hydrocodone painkillers except in cases of emergency. Pharmacists would require patients to present an original prescription for refills, and traffickers would be subject to harsher fines and penalties.

Emergency room visits linked to hydrocodone abuse rose from 38,000 in 2004 to more than 115,000 in 2010. These drugs are now the most widely prescribed painkillers in the United States.

In addition, an expert advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration recently voted 19-10 in favor of reclassifying hydrocodone painkillers as a Schedule II controlled substance.

“As I travel across the state, I continue to hear devastating stories about how prescription drug abuse is tearing apart families and communities. The pains of those struggling with prescription drug abuse and addiction weigh heavily on me, especially when it involves our young people,” Rockefeller said.