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Hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee - Prescription Drug Abuse


Location: Washington, DC

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (MI-6), Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (PA-16) and Ranking Member Henry Waxman (CA-30) have agreed to include in the FDA Reform Act of 2012 (H.R. 5651) a key provision by Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (CA-45) to combat the deadly and growing problem of prescription drug abuse. As part of the committee's debate over the legislation, Congresswoman Bono Mack made the following statement:

"With nearly 30,000 Americans dying each year from prescription drug abuse, I commend Chairman Upton, Health Subcommittee Chairman Pitts and Ranking Member Waxman for including my language in the FDA Reform Act to combat this deadly public health epidemic.

"My language is an important step in addressing -- what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now calls --the fastest growing problem in America. It directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in coordination with other federal agencies, to identify gaps and opportunities in ensuring the safe use of prescription drugs, such as opiates and anti-anxiety pills.

"Most importantly, this will assist in the development and implementation of best practices and standards to achieve interoperability for state prescription drug monitoring programs to function across state lines, as well as the dissemination of provider-patient education tools that promote an understanding of the signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse.

"Additionally, my language also requires the FDA to provide guidance, within 6 months of enactment, on the approval process for tamper-resistant drugs.

"Clearly, more has to be done to save American lives. Today, two classes of medicines -- painkillers and insomnia/anxiety drugs -- are responsible for about 70 deaths and nearly 3,000 emergency room visits a day. These are stunning numbers.

"But here's what's even more alarming: the death toll from overdoses of these powerfully-addictive medicines has risen dramatically in recent years, claiming more lives today than heroin and cocaine combined. In fact, for the first time ever, drug deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities and have become the leading cause of accidental death in America. And there's no end in sight to the problem. According to a recent "Monitoring the Future" national survey, nearly one in four 12th graders have abused prescription drugs. Think about that. Twenty-five percent of our kids are graduating today with a degree in prescription drug abuse.

"Compounding the problem is an often-times false sense of security: "If it's approved by the FDA and prescribed by a doctor then it must be okay.' Wrong. Too many pills taken at once, or combining them with other drugs, and alcohol, can have serious and even deadly consequences.

"There's yet another, more insidious side of this story as well. After becoming addicted to prescription painkillers, law enforcement authorities say more and more people are switching to heroin. In San Diego County -- which borders my district -- drug treatment experts say the use of heroin by young adults has more than tripled since 2006. Much of this growth is due to people who have switched to heroin as a cheaper alternative to drugs such as OxyContin.

"This is our chance, Mr. Chairman, to save countless lives and to spare thousands of American families from the heartache of addiction."

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