In a press conference on Capitol Hill, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) Friday announced the introduction of new bipartisan legislation he has cosponsored to increase abuse-deterrent safeguards for prescription drugs.
"Drug manufacturers have the means -- and, certainly, the moral responsibility -- to reduce the risk of abuse, whenever possible, for the prescription pain medications they are selling. We have a growing national epidemic on our hands and it is no longer sufficient to merely encourage drug manufacturers to do the right thing. Voluntary incentives are not enough," said Rahall, who is the co-chairman of the Congressional Prescription Drug Abuse Caucus.
The Stop Tampering of Prescription Pills (STOPP) Act, which Rahall introduced with Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) and William Keating (D-MA), would require opioid-based prescription drugs to include abuse-deterrent technologies that prevent substance abusers from crushing or dissolving prescription opioids so that they cannot be inhaled or injected to achieve an immediate high.
Some drug manufacturers now produce prescription opioids with tamper-resistant features that prevent such abuse, but the patents expire this year for brand name painkillers such as Oxycontin that include those safeguards. The STOPP Act would ensure similar generic medications include abuse-deterrent technologies.
"The legislation is a bipartisan effort to STOP drug manipulators and START drug manufacturers who have not done so voluntarily in thinking and working on a way to keep pills safer. In the end, this will save lives, save medical resources, hospital beds, prison cells, broken homes, and orphaned little ones. It will save commerce and all levels of government scarce resources. Yes, that means savings to the consumer and taxpayer alike," said Rahall. "The STOPP Act is an important step -- part of a comprehensive, national strategy -- in the fight against prescription drug abuse. Making these pills harder to abuse is a needed step in curbing the abuse and overdose levels we see in West Virginia, and all across our great nation," said Rahall.
"Pharmaceutical companies must take responsibility for the safety of their products. That's what the STOPP Act is about; it really is that simple," said Michael Barnes, Executive Director, Center for Lawful Access and Abuse Deterrence (CLADD). "Some companies have heeded the public's call to improve their products' safety and voluntarily removed their pain pills from the market and replaced them with new versions designed to thwart common forms of abuse. Tampering and abuse have decreased by 71 percent in the case of one medication and 59 percent for another."
Rahall, along with Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), also is a sponsor of the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, which would improve consumer awareness and physician training about the safe use of prescription drugs with a high risk of abuse. Both measures are pending before the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House of Representatives. Last year, Rahall was successful in securing a Congressional hearing on his legislation.