U.S. Senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin (both D-W.Va.) proudly announced today they are original co-sponsors of the bipartisan, bicameral legislation to combat prescription drug abuse by tightening restrictions on some of the most powerful, addictive narcotics on the market. The "Safe Prescribing Act of 2013" will reclassify hydrocodone painkillers, such as Vicodin and Lortab, from a Schedule III to a Schedule II controlled substance. The reclassification will accurately reflect the drugs' high potential for addiction and abuse.
"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," Senator Rockefeller said. "We must do everything possible to stop this epidemic. This bill is another important step in the fight to end prescription drug abuse in West Virginia. I want to keep hearing from West Virginians to get their ideas about what we can do to address this problem. By working together, we can make a difference."
"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," Senator 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."
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. The Drug Enforcement Administration has supported this change since 2004.
In addition, an expert advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently voted 19-10 in favor of re-classifying hydrocodone painkillers as a Schedule II controlled substance. Since then, Senator Manchin joined both Senate and House colleagues urging FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to adopt the board's recommendation immediately.
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.