Tag Archives: legislation

Ky. anti-heroin bill moves forward

heroinA controversial bill that would boost penalties for drug dealers — particularly when the sale of drugs like heroin results in an overdose death — is gaining traction in Kentucky, where the House Judiciary Committee narrowly approved the measure. The bill needed 12 votes to advance out of committee, and only secured enough support when one lawmaker agreed to change her vote, with eight members passing and no one voting in opposition, according to this article.

The legislation would allow the prosecution of homicide when the sale of heroin or some other Schedule I controlled substance results in an overdose death; classify the controversial new painkiller Zohydro as a Schedule I drug; require the state Medicaid program to cover several inpatient and outpatient treatment options for people addicted to opiates, including heroin and prescription painkillers; and divert state funds to expand treatment programs, according to this article.

Prescription painkillers are the primary cause of overdose deaths in Kentucky, while heroin contributed to 129 Kentucky resident drug overdose deaths in 2012 — a 207 percent increase from the 42 heroin-involved deaths recorded in 2011.

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Heroin use has doubled, but OD antidote still scarce

naloxone-hcl-narcanAlthough federal data suggests that heroin use has roughly doubled across the country in recent years, the overdose antidote naloxone remains widely unavailable to many users and emergency responders — despite a success rate that normally exceeds 80% or 90%, according to this report by the Los Angeles Times.

Legislatures in Democrat and Republican states alike are considering proposals that would expand access to naloxone, otherwise known as Narcan, and 17 states plus the District of Columbia have already adopted laws expanding access to the drug, the LA Times says. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia also have passed so-called “Good Samaritan” laws that offer immunity to those who call 911 during an overdose, according to the paper.

Naloxone has few if any side effects, and is virtually 100% effective when used on an overdose victim whose heart is still beating, the paper notes. It has successfully reversed more than 10,000 lives in the last fifteen years, according to a 2012 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The widespread painkiller addiction epidemic has fueled the rise of heroin use nationwide, particularly among suburban youth. Between 2007 and 2011, the number of users went from 373,000 to 620,000, according to federal data, and heroin-dependent young adults more than doubled to 109,000 between 2009 and 2011.

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Missouri lags behind nation on pill monitoring database

computerpillsForty-nine states have taken measures to implement prescription drug monitoring databases in light of the pill addiction epidemic, but Missouri lacks such a program — despite the fact that it has the seventh highest drug overdose death rate in the country, a majority of which are from prescription drugs, according to this article.

Approximately 3,200 people in Missouri seek treatment for a prescription drug abuse problem each year, and the most commonly used drugs were controlled substances such as Xanax, OxyContin, and Vicodin, the article says, pointing to data from the Missouri Department of Mental Health. Yet efforts to establish a prescription drug monitoring program were stymied when a Missouri senator filibustered the legislation that would have brought the database to the state, citing concerns over patient privacy, the article says.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found that drug overdose deaths increased for the eleventh consecutive year in 2010. According to the agency, 38,329 people died from a drug overdose in the U.S. that year, up from 37,004 deaths in 2009.

Overdose deaths involving opioid analgesics have shown a similar increase, the CDC found: starting with 4,030 deaths in 1999, the number of deaths increased to 15,597 in 2009 and 16,651 in 2010.

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Calif. lawmakers OK painkiller legislation

pills and pill bottlesThe California Senate has given the green light to two bills aimed at combatting prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths by helping authorities track painkiller prescriptions and enabling enhanced scrutiny of deaths involving such drugs.

The proposed legislation would require coroners to report prescription overdose deaths to the state’s medical board for review, according to the Los Angeles Times, which earlier reported on the nearly 4,000 accidental deaths involving prescription drugs in Southern California and found that in half the cases, drugs that caused or contributed to a death had been prescribed by that person’s physician.

The legislation would also enhance and provide sustained funding for California’s prescription drug monitoring system, known as CURES, which contains detailed data on prescriptions for painkillers, the LA Times said.

The two bills now head to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown for approval.

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Vt. becomes 13th state to pass ‘Good Samaritan’ law

911 dial phone callThe governor of Vermont signed so-called “Good Samaritan” legislation on Wednesday offering protection to anyone seeking medical help in the event of a drug or alcohol overdose, making Vermont the 13th state to pass such a measure. The law extends both to people seeking assistance for themselves and for others, and seeks to prevent overdose deaths by empowering witnesses to report such episodes quickly without fear of legal repercussions, according to this article.

Drug overdoses were responsible for killing 73 people in Vermont last year, and remain the leading cause of injury death to state residents between the ages of 25 and 64, the article says.

Separately on Wednesday, the governor also gave the stamp of approval to a measure that will increase access to naloxone, a medication used to reverse opiate overdose, the article says. Under that law, doctors who prescribe naloxone to opiate-using patients and bystanders who administer the drug to an overdose victim will no longer be to subject to civil liabilities resulting from rare adverse reactions to the drug, according to the article.

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Calif. Senate OKs prescription drug abuse measures

gavelThe California Senate has given the stamp of approval to a package of bills aimed at reducing prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths, including a measure that would require coroners to report deaths involving prescription drugs to the Medical Board of California. The Los Angeles Times reports that the Senate also signed off on a bill that would upgrade the state’s prescription drug monitoring program, known as CURES. In addition, lawmakers approved a measure that would make it easier for the medical board to investigate physicians suspected of overprescribing and suspend their prescribing privileges, and a bill that would prohibit pharmacies from advertising commonly abused narcotic medications, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, according to the LA Times.

The package of legislation will now move on to the California Assembly for approval.

The CURES bill faced the strongest opposition from the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, the Times says, even though it had the support of a coalition of law enforcement groups, health insurance companies, and business, labor and consumer organizations. That opposition was dropped after the bill’s sponsors removed a provision that called for a tax on drug makers to pay for teams of investigators to crack down on drug-seeking patients and doctors who recklessly prescribe to them, according to the Times.

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Bono Mack backs tamper-proof painkiller legislation

Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Ca., has introduced legislation that would require pharmaceutical companies to make new opiate-based pills tamper-resistant. Bono Mack, who is co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse, says the “Stop the Tampering of Prescription Pills” (STOPP) Act would mandate that the FDA inform companies that refuse to manufacture tamper-proof versions to reformulate or withdraw their drug from the market.

But already-existing tamper-proof versions of drugs like OxyContin haven’t necessarily curbed the abuse epidemic. Many painkiller addicts have found ways to get their fix from such versions, or have switched to heroin.

Among Bono Mack’s other pending proposals are the Stop Oxy Abuse Act, which would restrict the use of any pain-relief drug containing oxycodone to “the relief of severe-only instead of moderate-to-severe pain,” and the Ryan Creedon Act of 2011 would require anyone who prescribes controlled substances to be educated on the risks such drugs pose to patients before they can register with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. DEA registration is already required by federal law. Unlike President Barack Obama’s recent plan to curb prescription drug abuse – which allows pharmaceutical companies themselves to “educate” doctors on the risks of their products – the bill specifies that this training should be provided by a medical society, a state medical licensing board, an accredited continuing education provider, or “another organization that the Secretary [of Health and Human Services] determines is appropriate for providing such training or certification.”

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N.Y. adopts “Good Samaritan” law to help save overdose victims

New York has passed a “Good Samaritan” law aimed at reducing overdose deaths by protecting people who call for medical help for overdose victims from being prosecuted for personal possession of drugs, paraphernalia or underage drinking. The state is now the largest in the nation to adopt such a measure. Washington state, Connecticut and New Mexico have all passed similar laws, and California, Illinois and Nebraska are currently considering them.

Overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in New York, where almost 22.5 million prescriptions for all types of narcotic painkillers were written in in 2010, according to a recent report issued by the state’s attorney general.

Even though opiate overdoses are on the rise, many people don’t call 911 out of fear of arrest and prosecution, and instead rely on ineffective methods of reviving victims.

Read more about the prescription addiction epidemic in New York here.

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Mack resumes painkiller regulation efforts

Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Ca., is resuming a series of Congressional hearings on prescription drug abuse that began last year. While Mack says painkillers like oxycodone have become too available, some patient advocates and addiction experts contend that a congressional committee is not the appropriate forum for addressing the conditions under which such powerful drugs should be prescribed.

Among Mack’s proposals are the Stop Oxy Abuse Act, which would restrict the use of any pain-relief drug containing oxycodone to “the relief of severe-only instead of moderate-to-severe pain,” and the Ryan Creedon Act of 2011 would require anyone who prescribes controlled substances to be educated on the risks such drugs pose to patients before they can register with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. DEA registration is already required by federal law. Unlike President Barack Obama’s recent plan to curb prescription drug abuse – which allows pharmaceutical companies themselves to “educate” doctors on the risks of their products – the bill specifies that this training should be provided by a medical society, a state medical licensing board, an accredited continuing education provider, or “another organization that the Secretary [of Health and Human Services] determines is appropriate for providing such training or certification.”

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