Bill Lunn and Frank Rajkowski
U.S. senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Rob Portman of Ohio introduced legislation Thursday that would require the use of prescription drug monitoring programs in all states that receive certain federal funding to combat opioid abuse.
It would also require those states to make PDMP data available to other states.
The aim is to keep opioid addicts from doctor shopping by creating a database that would share information with doctors and pharmacists in all 50 states.
In an interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, Klobuchar cited a Moorhead man who had gone to 80 different doctors for 108 different prescriptions in 50 different cities.
"Think of how outrageous that is," Klobuchar said. "Yet a lot of times, the data isn't entered in right away. Some states like Florida don't share it across state lines, so what these addicts are doing is going from state to state to try to beat the system.
"Instead of getting the help they need, they are getting enabled."
The bill would require all states to participate in the database, though they would have a few years to comply if it passes. If they did not, they would lose their funding for opioid abuse and education.
"Four out of five heroin addicts in Ohio and across the country started with prescription painkillers," Portman said in a press release.
"Too many of these people were prescribed a painkiller by their doctor and became addicted or tried a drug prescribed to someone else. In 2012, there were more opioid prescriptions in Ohio than there were Ohioans, and during just one three-month period, 11 percent of Ohioans were prescribed an opioid painkiller," Portman said. "Since then, we've made progress in stopping overprescribing, but the consequences of addiction have only gotten worse."
Other Senators were also putting the focus on prescription opioid abuse this week.
Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri is seeking marketing information, sales records and studies from manufacturers of the top-selling opioid products in the United States to determine whether drugmakers have contributed to an overuse of the painkillers.
She said that sales of prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999, taking a financial toll on the government and a deadly toll on thousands of consumers.
McCaskill said previous government and media reports show an industry not focused on preventing abuse but on fostering addiction. She is investigating whether such practices continue today.
Some of the records she is asking for from the five companies include sales rep expenses for entertaining physicians, payments made to health care advocacy groups, as well as marketing and business plans.
"We have an obligation to everyone devastated by this epidemic to find answers," McCaskill said in a prepared statement issued Tuesday. "All of this didn't happen overnight. It happened one prescription and marketing program at a time."