Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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March 16, 2013

Fighting an epidemic — Attorney General response a necessity

When it comes to fighting the rampant prescription drug abuse epidemic, all available resources should be utilized in dealing with this deadly scourge. That’s why the latest efforts by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey — and 47 other attorney generals across the nation — are necessary and welcomed.

Morrisey, the Republican attorney general serving the Mountain State, has joined with 46 other attorney generals in asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ensure that generic manufacturers of opioid prescription drugs use tamper-resistant and abuse-resistant formulations.

Also Friday, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., announced he was co-sponsoring the Stop Tampering of Prescription Pills Act with U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., and U.S. Rep. William Keating, D-Mass. The measure would require opioid-based prescription drugs to include abuse-deterrent technologies that prevent substance abusers from crushing or dissolving prescription opioids so that they cannot be inhaled or injected to achieve an immediate high.  

Morrisey and Rahall both correctly note that the development of tamper-resistant opioid-based prescription pain relievers help to deter abuse and can be a part of a comprehensive approach when combined with prevention, interdiction, prosecution and substance-abuse treatment.

“Like many other states and territories, West Virginia suffers from an epidemic of prescription drug abuse,” Morrisey said Tuesday. “The most recently available information from the Centers for Disease Control shows the Mountain State had one of the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in the nation in 2008 with more than 25 deaths per 100,000 people. That is a very sad and scary statistic that is made all the worse when you think of the families and lives forever changed by this plague.”

And the prescription drug-abuse problem has become increasingly rampant right here in the coalfields, including Mercer and McDowell counties. That’s why action from all elected officials — both on the state and federal level — is critical in fighting this epidemic. Law enforcement, concerned citizens and the community as a whole also must play a critical role in helping to slow and ultimately stop this deadly tide.

Morrisey and the 46 other attorney generals say they are concerned that non-medical users are shifting away from the new tamper-resistant formulations to non-tamper-resistant formulas of other opioids as well as to illegal drugs.

The FDA must act quickly on the request by Morrisey and the 46 other attorney generals. And the U.S. House of Representatives must pass the bipartisan STOPP Act introduced by Rahall, Rogers and Keating. There is no room or time for politics when it comes to fighting the deadly epidemic of prescription drug abuse.

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