New Federal Legislation Proposed on Prescription Drugs

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This time of year, at least in even numbered years, there’s a push on for Congressmen to make a mark legislatively. As their biannual reelection approaches, it’s a chance to tell their constituents what they’ve been up to and justify their existence. And while no one can lay that motivation at any particular Congressman’s door, the legislative proposals can come fast and furious in the “silly season.”

Some new proposals on the prescription drug front are designed to make it harder to abuse these products. One, called the STOPP Act has been proposed by Congressman Nick Rahall, Dem-West Virginia. The idea is to require tamperproof formulations for narcotics to make them harder to “defeat.” These formulations attempt to stop abusers from heating, grinding or dissolving tablets to get the entire dose right away. Instead, tablets using the technology would dissolve slowly in the stomach over time and release the drug at a regulated, slower rate.

Another proposal was to elevate hydrocodone products (Vicodin, Lorcet) to the same status as morphine. This would tighten up controls and increase penalties for those using the drugs illegally.

If new restrictions go through on the federal level, there may be unintended consequences. Unfortunately, making one source of narcotics harder to use can lead to addicts moving to other supply routes. For narcotics, the hidden threat would then be addicts who either started on prescription drugs or who prefer them, moving to heroin as an available substitute.

Unlike illegal “street” drugs, legislation will have a direct effect on prescription drugs. The government not only controls the manufacture and distribution, but how these drugs are dispensed at the pharmacy. Prescription tracking has already emerged as one way to try and stop illegitimate use at the state level.

Rep. Rahall posted on his website: "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."

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