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Rockefeller Leads Effort to Help Stem Prescription Drug Abuse

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Senator Jay Rockefeller today announced that a team of federal health care experts are coming to the state tomorrow to help work with pharmacists, doctors, and nurses to stem the tide of prescription drug abuse.

The event has already attracted interest from across the state. And it comes after Rockefeller sent a series of 29 separate letters to West Virginia health care providers, schools, and pharmacists on the importance of making sure prescribers get needed training on controlled substances.

Rockefeller invited the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to come to the state as part of his larger effort to find ways to tackle the plague of prescription drug abuse in West Virginia. SAMSHA's first continuing medical education course for providers in West Virginia will take place on September 28 and it aims to help our prescribers, especially those in primary care settings, learn about what they can do to safely prescribe opioid painkillers and reduce the likelihood of abuse among patients.

"No matter where I go in the state, I hear from concerned parents, health professionals, and law enforcement about the seriousness of this issue," said Rockefeller. "I was in Wheeling almost two weeks ago and what I heard over and over again is that we need to make sure doctors and nurses who prescribe drugs are getting the information they need to avoid over prescribing and better identify patients who are doctor shopping.

"That's why I asked SAMHSA to come to West Virginia to help arm our health care providers with more information, best procedures, and practical steps to deal with this epidemic. And it's also why I've reached out to West Virginia health providers for their ideas. Prescription drug abuse is unfortunately a widespread problem, but if we all work together, we can help end it. This course is a positive step in the right direction, and I hope many doctors, nurses, dentists, and others attend."

For thousands of West Virginians, the proper prescription means the ability to continue active and productive lives. Unfortunately, there have also been dramatic increases in the number of prescription drug deaths and overdoses in the last decade.

SAMHSA's course, entitled "Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain: Balancing Safety and Efficacy," will take place on Friday, September 28 from 8:30 a.m. -- 4:45 p.m. Registration opens at 8:00 a.m. For more details, click here. SAMHSA works to target effective substance abuse and mental health services to those in need, and aims to translate research in these areas more effectively and quickly into the health care system.

"SAMHSA believes that, consistent with the ONDCP Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Strategy, prescriber education on appropriate prescribing practices is an essential element in reducing prescription drug abuse," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. "SAMHSA has invested considerable resources in developing the curriculum, and providing courses over the last several years, placing a priority on the States with the highest rates of abuse and overdose deaths."

Rockefeller also sent 29 letters to West Virginia health professionals, schools of medicine and osteopathy, school boards, and pharmacists to solicit their ideas on how to make sure prescribers get the right information at their fingertips when facing the daily challenges of safe prescribing of controlled substances.


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:

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 roll out several additional initiatives to combat prescription drug addiction next month.

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.

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, will be held at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine on Friday, September 28, 2012, is open to all prescribers, and offers 6.25 hours of continuing education credits.

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.

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.

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.

Introduced a bill 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 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.

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 drug abuse affects families and children in West Virginia.

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