Senator Jay Rockefeller today pushed three federal agencies to take stronger steps to address prescription drug abuse, which is particularly widespread in West Virginia.
Rockefeller sent letters to the federal agencies, which build upon his efforts to reach out to impacted families, health care providers, schools of medicine, and health policy experts about solutions to better stem the tide of prescription drug abuse in West Virginia. Last year, he sent letters to major national health associations and West Virginia health providers and experts to spark a more intense, fact-based response to prescription drug abuse.
"The more people, organizations, and agencies join this important conversation, the stronger and smarter our fight against prescription drug abuse will be," said Rockefeller, who has long fought to address the abuse and misuse of prescription drugs. "In our state, prescription drug abuse isn't just in the headlines. It's something families live and grapple with every day. We can tackle this epidemic, and we can change lives. The letters I sent to federal agencies are one part of that effort, and I hope the gravity of this issue generates the type of action and response that can truly make a difference."
Rockefeller wrote the following letters:
A bipartisan letter with Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting a study on neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). NAS is a group of symptoms that occurs in newborns who were exposed to addictive illegal or prescription drugs, particularly opiods, while in the mother's womb. In the U.S., one infant is born every hour with NAS and the possible associated problems of low birth weight, respiratory diagnoses, feeding difficulty, seizure, and the additional costs of prolonged hospital care. Click here to view the letter.
A letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) asking for information on how the agency is monitoring the problem of prescription drug abuse among Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries and what the agency is doing to help reduce abuse. Rockefeller also recommended that CMS take additional steps to address the issue. Click here to view the letter.
A letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking for the agency to explain its efforts to improve patient and prescriber education of methadone. As the FDA works to keep doctors, patients, and the public informed about prescription drugs, learning about the FDA's efforts on methadone would be useful as the nation seeks ways to address abuse. Click here to view the letter.
In the last decade, West Virginia has experienced a tragic increase in deaths and overdoses from prescription drugs. Nine out of ten of the drug-related deaths in West Virginia are due to the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs, especially opioid painkillers. Rockefeller has been working in Congress for several years to raise awareness for the need to fight prescription drug abuse:
Pushed the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to implement a permanent prescription drug disposal plan to help prevent prescription drug abuse. In December 2012, the DEA heeded Rockefeller's requests, and issued a proposed rule which requires the DEA to enforce a safe and lawful disposal method for prescription drugs.
Sent a series of 29 letters to West Virginia health care providers, schools, and pharmacists, and 13 letters to national health care associations in September 2012 on the importance of making sure prescribers get needed training on controlled substances. The letters seek ideas on how to make sure prescribers get the right information to face the daily challenges of safely prescribing controlled substances.
Designated October as National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month. Rockefeller has consistently been an original cosponsor of a Senate resolution designating October as "National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month" to draw attention to and educate the public about problems associated with drug abuse and misuse of prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Rockefeller will continue to roll out several additional initiatives to combat prescription drug addiction.
Added four Northern Panhandle counties (Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, and Marshall) to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program in August 2012. Rockefeller pushed for the Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske to designate these counties as HIDTA counties, which qualifies them for additional federal funding to fight prescription drug abuse and trafficking. He also won an additional $39 million above the budgeted level for HIDTA.
Secured additional federal funds to help prevent prescription drug abuse. In addition to his support for the HIDTA program, Rockefeller has consistently supported funding for important law enforcement programs, such as Drug Courts, Byrne JAG grants, the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, and others. The Recovery Act alone provided $4 billion nationwide and $25 million for West Virginia to hire police officers, fight crime and drug abuse, and provide services for at-risk youth.
Introduced the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to prevent the unsafe use of prescription drugs and reduce deaths. The Rockefeller bill would promote both physician and patient education, and create a uniform reporting system for painkiller-related deaths. The bill would also significantly increase federal funding to help states create and maintain prescription drug monitoring programs that will stop "doctor shopping" and drug trafficking across state lines.
Secured a provision in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) bill in July 2012 to improve patient and provider education on drug abuse. The provision, which was included as part of legislation to fund the FDA, requires a study on the best ways to develop and disseminate provider, pharmacist, and patient education tools on prescription drug abuse.
Co-led a letter to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education with five other Senators, asking the Subcommittee to reinstate funding for the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting (NASPER) program in Fiscal Year 2013.
Invited the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to hold a Continuing Medical Education course for West Virginia health care professionals. This course, Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain: Balancing Safety and Efficacy, was held at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine on Friday, September 28, 2012 and offered 6.25 hours of continuing education credits. It was open to all prescribers, and 125 attended.
Held a Senate hearing on March 22 on "Prescription Drug Abuse: How are Medicare and Medicaid Adapting to the Challenge?" Rockefeller discussed the role of Medicare and Medicaid in preventing and treating the overprescribing, misuse of, and addiction to prescription drugs.
Held a roundtable in 2011 with the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, state and local leaders, health providers, and law enforcement officials in Huntington. Rockefeller discussed how prescription.