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DiGirolamo Says Tool to Help Fight Back Against Prescription Drug Abuse Heads Toward Final Passage
10/15/2014
HARRISBURG -- This week, legislation that Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) has been advocating for many years has returned to the state Senate in a path toward final approval by the governor.

Senate Bill 1180 is very similar to legislation that I have sponsored for the past couple of sessions as a way to help prevent prescription drug addiction, abuse and overdoses,” DiGirolamo said. “We intend this new database to be used as a tool for the medical community and to help people get the treatment they need for an addiction.”

The legislation would establish a confidential prescription drug monitoring database for professionals who prescribe or dispense prescription medication. The new program would replace the attorney general’s existing Schedule II database, which only tracks a very narrow category of prescription drugs and does not make any information collected accessible to doctors and pharmacists.

“With final approval of this legislation, Pennsylvania will be able to effectively monitor highly addictive prescription drugs with the intent to save lives and get people the help they need,” said DiGirolamo. “Currently, the only program we have is for law enforcement purposes only. While that is helpful in shutting down ‘pill mills,’ physicians and pharmacists need more tools to pinpoint an addiction and get people the help they need before it’s too late.”

DiGirolamo said that the legislation, which would track the filling of controlled substances, will be a great help to doctors, pharmacists and law enforcement to improve patient care and prescribing practices, help uncover drug diversion, identify “doctor shopping” and provide training for health care professionals in prevention, identification of drug problems and referral when appropriate.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the nonmedical use and abuse of prescription drugs is a serious public health problem in this country. Although most people take prescription medications responsibly, an estimated 52 million people (20 percent of those aged 12 and older) have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons at least once in their lifetimes, with young people strongly represented in this group.

In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey found that about one in 12 high school seniors reported past-year nonmedical use of the prescription pain reliever Vicodin in 2010, and one in 20 reported abusing OxyContin — making these medications among the most commonly abused drugs by adolescents. The reasons for the high prevalence of prescription drug abuse vary by age, gender, and other factors, but likely include greater availability.

Nearly all 50 states at this point have in place some type of prescription drug monitoring system that will eventually lead to the sharing of information across state borders, which will enhance tracking of those who live along the borders who may use doctors and pharmacies in two states to feed their prescription drug habit.

In order to better ensure patient confidentiality is preserved, anyone obtaining or attempting to obtain information from the database through misrepresentation or fraud or for an unauthorized purpose, or anyone knowingly, intentionally or negligently releasing or using information from the database, would face criminal penalties.

The bill now heads back to the state Senate for consideration on House amendments. It has the support of nearly 30 different stakeholders, including the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, the Pennsylvania Medical Society, the Office of Pennsylvania Attorney General, the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Coroners Association, the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association, the Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians, the Pennsylvania Association of Chain Drug Stores, and the Drug and Alcohol Service Providers Organization of Pennsylvania.

Representative Gene DiGirolamo
18th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Jennifer Keaton
717.705.2094
jkeaton@pahousegop.com  
GeneDiGirolamo.com / Facebook.com/GeneDiGirolamo
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