Today, Congressman Harold "Hal" Rogers (KY-05) joined his colleagues from the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse in speaking on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to do more to combat the prescription drug epidemic. In particular, Rogers urged the FDA to act swiftly and decisively in responding to a recently submitted petition from a group of more than 30 clinicians, researchers and health officials, to change the way opioid narcotics may be prescribed. With the proper labels on prescription painkillers, physicians would be more aware of the safety concerns and effectiveness of certain opioids, before unnecessarily prescribing highly addictive narcotics to patients.
"Twelve million people admitted to using prescription drugs non-medically in 2010, and nearly 29,000 lost their lives. With prescription drug abuse levels at an all time high, we must take every precautionary step to ensure these powerful painkillers are being used as intended," said Rogers, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse. "If we could get the labels to reflect the potency of these drugs, doctors might think twice before prescribing an unnecessary addictive narcotic. Instead, we've got enough prescription painkillers being prescribed in our country to medicate every American adult around the clock for a month."
Earlier this week, Rogers joined six members of the Prescription Drug Abuse Caucus in sending a letter to the FDA, requesting an expedited review of the aforementioned petition on opioid label changes. In the letter to FDA Commission Dr. Margaret Hamburg, members expressed their concern about the growing medicine cabinet epidemic:
"As you know, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the quantity of painkillers sold to pharmacies, hospitals, and doctor's offices was four times larger in 2010 than in 1999...As the sales of these drugs have increased, so too, have the number of deaths from prescription drugs and the rate of substance abuse treatment admissions."
Prescription Drug Abuse Caucus members, including Rogers and Reps. Mary Bono Mack (CA-45), Nick Rahall (WV-3), William Keating (MA-10) and Robert Dold (IL-10), met with Dr. Hamburg earlier this month and advocated FDA changes recommended in a petition, which was submitted by more than 30 leading clinicians, researchers and health officials. The proposed changes to opioid analgesic labels include:
· Striking the term "moderate" from the indication for non-cancer pain.
· Adding a maximum daily dose, equivalent to 100 milligrams of morphine for non-cancer pain.
· Adding a maximum duration of 90-days for continuous (daily) use for non-cancer pain.
Prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin, Opana and Vicodin were originally intended to treat severe pain caused by cancer. But over the years -- based in large part on marketing practices -- many physicians, dentists and other health care providers began prescribing opioid painkillers for moderate-to-severe pain. The FDA-approved indication for nearly all instant-release opioid analgesics is "moderate to severe pain" and for extended-release opioids, the FDA-approved indication is "moderate to severe pain when a continuous, around-the clock analgesic is needed for an extended period of time." These indications give the false assumption that opioid analgesics are a safe and effective treatment for chronic non-cancer pain, when in fact, an increasing body of medical literature suggests that long-term use of opioids may be neither safe nor effective. This year, more than 15,000 Americans are expected to die from overdoses and abuse of painkillers.
As part of his efforts to fight this growing epidemic, Rogers joined with Representatives Mary Bono Mack (CA-45) and Stephen Lynch in forming the bi-partisan Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse, which aims to raise awareness of abuse and to work toward innovative and effective policy solutions, incorporating treatment, prevention, law enforcement and research. Rogers has served Kentucky's 5th Congressional District since 1981. With a focus on economic development, job creation, fighting illegal drugs and preserving Appalachia's natural treasures, he has a reputation for listening to his constituents and fighting for the region he represents. For more information, visit http://halrogers.house.gov/ or follow Rogers on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/RepHalRogers or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/#!/CongressmanHalRogers.