Rahall: Federal legislation needed to rein in prescription pill abuse; drug makers, FDA must participate in solutions

Jul 19, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of his ongoing efforts to advocate solutions to fight the prescription drug abuse crisis in southern West Virginia, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) Thursday met with the head of the Food and Drug Administration in pushing bipartisan legislation he has cosponsored to require new safeguards that would make it more difficult to abuse addictive painkillers.

“We have the science and manufacturing capabilities to help stop turning the Godsend of prescription painkillers into an addict’s Devil’s brew,” said Rahall, a senior member of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse. “Pharmaceutical manufacturers should embrace this federal measure because in the end it will not only save lives it will work to aid their corporate bottom lines.  The less exposed the general population is to potential addictive prescription drugs, the better the makers should fair in the justice system. I know there is no one answer, no single action, and no ‘silver bullet’ in this fight.  We must bring all stakeholders to the table, including drug makers, who must do their part to ensure their products are used properly and safely.”

Rahall is an original cosponsor of “Stop the Tampering of Prescription Pills” (STOPP) Act, along with his Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse colleagues Reps. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) and Bill Keating (D-MA).  The STOPP Act, introduced today in the House, would make abuse of prescription painkillers more difficult by requiring brand name and generic painkillers to have tamper-resistant formulations, in order to prevent the commonly known methods of crushing, chewing or heating of both immediate and extended-release narcotics that can risk dangerous overdoses. Under the bill, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services would be required to set deadlines with which brand-name and generic drug manufacturers would have to comply, or risk having their drug discontinued from marketing due to safety reasons.

“The toll of destruction and devastation heaped upon America's families and our economy by this epidemic demands the Congress must act, and act swiftly.  Fighting back against prescription drug abuse will take the efforts of an entire village with determination and persistence and the coordination of federal, state, and local resources and networks,” Rahall said at the morning press conference to announce the proposed legislation. “I, and my distinguished colleagues, have put forth and support legislation that aims to combat prescription drug abuse. We know that something more needs to be done from a federal level to address critical issues and help our states and communities in combating prescription drug abuse,” Rahall said.

Rahall and members of the Congressional Prescription Drug Caucus were briefed by Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg on FDA’s actions on prescription drug abuse prevention, including the recently released Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS), which requires drug manufacturers to make FDA-approved patient education materials available to consumers on safe use and disposal of prescription drugs, and provide education and training programs to prescribers. 

The legislation introduced today is one of several actions Rahall has initiated to address the prescription pill abuse problem in southern West Virginia.  Last year, he introduced H.R. 1925, the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 2011, the House companion measure to the Senate bill authored by Senator Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), which would require both physician and consumer education, as well as authorize federal funding to help states create and maintain prescription drug monitoring programs that all states can access.  Rahall also has participated in national and local summits on prescription drug abuse to bring together federal, state, and local officials to focus resources on the burgeoning problem in West Virginia.