United States Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) introduced bipartisan legislation with the goal of helping to ensure addictive prescription drugs are only prescribed for their intended use.
Bono Mack partnered with Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse Co-Chairs Harold “Hal” Rogers (R-KY) and Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA) to introduce the legislation.
Bono Mack and Rogers established the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug abuse to shed light on the problem of prescription drug abuse and to unite like-minded policy-makers dedicated to the development of innovative and effective policy solutions. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), illegal prescription drug diversion is now our nation’s fastest growing drug threat.
This influential, bipartisan coalition of legislators has worked together before to combat the growing problem, partnering on Bono Mack’s Stop Oxy Abuse Act of 2011. The Stop Oxy Abuse Act would revise FDA classifications to ensure that oxycodone painkillers are only prescribed for severe pain.
In a press release, Mack noted how “the abuse of prescription drugs – especially painkillers, stimulants and depressants – is the fastest growing substance abuse problem in America.” She pointed to a recent national survey, which indicated that some 7 million people age 12 or older regularly abuse prescription drugs, and there are approximately 7,000 new abusers every day – many of them teenagers and young adults.
The Ryan Creedon Act of 2011 (H.R. 2119) was named in honor of Ryan Creedon of Palm Desert, CA, who suffered from a chronic addiction to OxyContin that ultimately resulted in his death. According to her press release, “the bill would put in place new measures to ensure that prescribers of powerful pain medications receive a minimum standard of education before issuing the drugs. No such national standard currently exists.”
The bill states that, as a condition on registering or renewing the registration of a practitioner to dispense controlled substances in schedule II, III, IV, or V, the Attorney General must require such practitioner to obtain particular training or special certification, meeting standards established by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Attorney General, on:
- Controlled substance addiction and abuse; and
- Appropriate and safe use of controlled substances in schedule II, III, IV, or V.
Such training or certification must be provided by:
- A medical society
- A State medical licensing board of a State where the practitioner is licensed;
- An accredited continuing education provider; or
- Another organization that the Secretary determines is appropriate for providing such training or certification.
The bill would appropriate $4,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2012 and 2013 to assist in carrying out this initiative.
On July 11, the bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. No other action has taken place since and we are unaware of any hearings on the bill as of today’s date. Prior to that, it was referred to the House Judiciary Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Currently all doctors, dentists, physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners and others who prescribe controlled substances are first required to register with the DEA and renew their registration every few years. This legislation would require that healthcare professionals are first educated on the risks that controlled substances pose to patients before they are registered to prescribe.
“The lack of education on addiction and controlled substances in the medical community played a huge role in enabling my son’s disease of addiction, which resulted in his death,” said Kathy Creedon, Ryan Creedon’s mother. “It is time that doctors realize that a few words written on a prescription pad have the power to devastate lives. I feel the passing of this legislation is vital to bringing awareness to the epidemic of irresponsible prescribing and the impact it has on our communities. This bill has the ability to save lives.”
“Prescription drug abuse affects everyone in America, and the problem is only getting worse. Soon, drug overdose will be the leading cause of accidental death, and we need to take steps now to ensure that medical professionals who are devoted to helping and treating us are not unwittingly contributing to a much larger problem,” Bono Mack said. “This legislation takes the necessary steps to ensure that only doctors who are knowledgeable about the abuse and addiction risks of these powerful medications can prescribe them.”
“While opioid narcotics can truly change lives for patients in need, the over-prescription and diversion of these powerful pain-killers has led to rampant abuse in my region of Southern and Eastern Kentucky, and around the nation. The results have been truly devastating for families and communities across the country, and it’s high time to take a serious look about the root causes of this epidemic,” stated Congressman Rogers.
“Where prescription drug abuse is of concern, it stands absolutely true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Physicians need to be fully aware of the risks associated with the drugs they’re prescribing, and also be on the lookout for signs of addiction in their patients. This legislation is an important step in the right direction.”
“These are powerful and addictive drugs so it only makes sense that the medical professionals prescribing them would have some basic education and awareness of substance abuse. This bill ensures that those prescribing these pain medications have an understanding of how they can potentially impact their patients,” Congressman Lynch said. “While prescription drug abuse continues to have a devastating effect on communities and families across the country, this legislation will help in the fight against this epidemic. I commend my friend, Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack, for introducing this bill.”
It is encouraging to learn that congress views certified CME as a participant in solving healthcare problems such as abuse of scheduled drugs. The sponsors of the bill should be congratulated on seeing education to help solve these problems.
The bill though very well intentioned, may be unnecessarily duplicative. The FDA is now in the final stages of requiring continuing education to prescribe both short and long acting Opioids. The White House, DEA and FDA have all been coordinating efforts to ensure that those who write scripts and/or dispense at pharmacies scheduled pharmaceuticals have the proper training and show certain competencies to manage patients on scheduled pharmaceuticals. We should be seeing more the beginning of 2012 on Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies that come from these initiatives.
In addition many states now require CE hours for prescribing and dispensing pain medication. Iowa and Florida just passed bills requiring pain education.
According to the sponsors “The Ryan Creedon Act”, which would have no cost to taxpayers, would have the added benefit of combating a problem that studies now show costs the U.S. economy as much as some chronic illnesses such as Diabetes.