Southern West Virginia is a major player when it comes to the epidemic abuse of prescription drugs. According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 1991 and 2010, prescriptions for narcotic painkillers rose from 75.5 million to 209.5 million.
According to a White House Drug Control Report, the rate of drug induced deaths in West Virginia is higher than the national average. McDowell County has the fifth highest rate of drug poisoning deaths in the country.
West Virginia legislators introduced the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act in 2011, in an effort to help decrease the number of opioid and methadone-related deaths in West Virginia and nationwide through: new training requirements for health care professionals before they can be licensed to prescribe these drugs; consumer education on the safe use of painkillers and preventing diversion and abuse; basic clinical standards for safe use and dosage of pain medications, including methadone; increased federal support for state prescription drug monitoring programs; and comprehensive reporting of opioid-related deaths to help guide solutions.
In an interview with U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, he gave a summary of pending legislation he has sponsored and testimony he has given to try and persuade the FDA to consider placing tighter controls on medication and drugs like hydrocodone to help stem the tide of prescription drug abuse.
“It is time to reschedule hydrocodone-combination drugs from Schedule III to Schedule II,” Senator Manchin said. “These drugs are highly addictive prescription painkillers that can easily fall into the wrong hands. I have seen effects of these addictive drugs in destruction of communities and devastation of families. Everyone has a story about someone in their family or someone they know. I am always hearing how easy it is for anybody to get their hands on hydrocodone.”
Moving the drugs to Schedule II means patients need an original prescription to get their pills refilled. Pharmacists and drugstores say it makes it more difficult for some people in pain to obtain treatment, and pharmacies would have costly administrative costs.
Manchin praised law enforcement for the recent arrest of a local doctor charged with operating a “pill mill” out of a makeshift office where he doctor wrote prescriptions for cash with few questions asked. The senator says physicians found guilty of operating a “pill mill,” should lose their license to practice medicine in addition to any other punishment or fine.