Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (CA-45) and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (TN-7), who serve as Chairman and Vice Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, today sent the following letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking them to take a lead role in addressing the growing problem of prescription drug diversion:
The Honorable Eric Holder
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20530
The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20201
Dear Attorney General Holder and Secretary Sebelius:
We write to you following a March 1, 2012 U.S. House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade hearing on prescription drug diversion. Witnesses at the hearing provided compelling testimony regarding the magnitude of prescription drug abuse -- a still growing epidemic - and its impact on the lives of American families.
As Members of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, we are interested in determining the best way to ensure that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Department of Health and Human Services work with health care stakeholders, including doctors, pharmacists, distributors and manufacturers, and law enforcement to implement the most up-to-date and comprehensive strategies to fight prescription drug abuse and diversion. We also recognize that a delicate balancing act is required to preserve access for patients with legitimate needs for controlled substances such as pain medications.
At the Subcommittee hearing, DEA Deputy Assistant Administrator Joseph Rannazzisi testified regarding the agency's ongoing work to combat prescription drug diversion. In addition, industry representatives testified regarding their efforts to comply with relevant law and regulations. Notably, in listening to the testimony we heard significantly different points of view regarding the extent of information and guidance available to industry from the DEA. As a matter of public policy, Congress should consider whether clear guidance from the DEA and better communication between the DEA and industry stakeholders would better ensure that all participants in the supply chain understand and perform their legal and ethical responsibilities.
With that in mind, we ask you to consider a comprehensive review of the current approaches of the Federal government, industry, public health and law enforcement to address diversion and the prescription drug abuse epidemic in America. We also ask that you consider engaging an independent group of credible experts to study the current approaches and report back with recommendations to improve or supplement such efforts. Given the extent of the problem we believe close collaboration among all participants in the health care system and law enforcement will be necessary to move us closer to solving the problem. Undoubtedly such an analysis would inform the efforts of Congress, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice in developing a more effective prevention and enforcement strategy. With nearly 30,000 Americans dying each year from prescription drug abuse, we hope you will seriously consider endorsing such an endeavor.
We look forward to hearing your thoughts on this proposal. Please contact Committee staff Gib Mullan at (202) 225-2927 if you have any questions.
Mary Bono Mack Marsha Blackburn
Chairmain Vice Chairman
Subcommittee on Commerce, Subcommittee on Commerce,
Manufacturing, and Trade Manufacturing, and Trade