Bi-Partisan Group of Lawmakers Team Up to Combat Prescription Drug Abuse

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) along with U.S. Representatives Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Bart Stupak (D-MI) and John Shimkus (R-IL) joined forces to introduce legislation in their respective chambers to reauthorize the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Drug Reporting Act (NASPER), a program critical to combating the abuse of prescription drugs.

“Each year more than 20,000 people in the United States die from prescription drug overdose and that number is on the rise,” said Durbin. “Reauthorizing the NASPER Act will keep a system in place that provides health care providers, law enforcement officials and other regulatory agencies with access to accurate, timely prescription history information. This information is essential for stopping the abuse, misuse, and overdose of prescription drugs.”

“During my time as a federal prosecutor, I came to understand how large the problem of prescription drug abuse is in this country, and it continues to increase,” said Sessions. “The NASPER program enables officials to monitor prescriptions for controlled substances in order to prevent illegal or inappropriate access and intervene in addictions sooner. This program has proved effective, and approval of legislation to reauthorize it for another five years is an important step toward reducing prescription drug abuse. I am pleased to work with Senator Durbin and our House colleagues to reauthorize this important program.”

“Prescription drug monitoring programs are essential to combating drug abuse around the country,” said Dodd. “By tracking prescriptions in each state, we will be better able to crack down on abuse and prevent ‘doctor shopping.’ We must pass NASPER so that these programs can continue to operate and reduce the illegal use of controlled substances.”

“There are more drug-related deaths in Ohio than there are auto-accident fatalities,” Brown said. “This terrifying statistic underscores the need for a well-functioning controlled substance monitoring system in Ohio and across the country. NASPER provides doctors with a critical tool to help prevent prescription drug abuse, and I strongly support its reauthorization.”

“The abuse of prescription drugs is a problem that continues to plague millions of Americans and their families every day,” Whitfield said. “Worse still, this epidemic is on the rise. NASPER is a powerful weapon in the fight against prescription drug abuse that will allow physicians to detect abuse and prevent the practice of doctor shopping across state lines.”

“NASPER has changed the way we prevent and fight prescription drug addiction in this country, since it became law in 2005,” said Pallone. “Doctors and law enforcement agencies have the necessary tools to keep up with the tactics of prescription drug abusers. As a public health issue, it’s important that this program remain strong and fully funded as it is in this reauthorization.”

“Providing our physicians, pharmacists, public health officials, and law enforcement officials with the resources they need to stop drug addiction before it begins is a critical part of the fight to stop the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse,” Stupak said. “Prescription drug addictions destroy lives and ignore traditional boundaries between law enforcement, the medical field and public health. NASPER provides the tools necessary to transcend these boundaries and mount a comprehensive effort to put an end to doctor shopping by patients and drug dealers while providing safeguards against prescribing patients dangerous combinations of prescription drugs.”

“As the incidents of prescription drug abuse increase and those seeking treatment become younger, we need to make sure that these most addictive and most potent drugs are carefully tracked,” Shimkus said. “NASPER needs to be extended so that the states may continue to implement and improve their tracking systems.”

The legislation, introduced in the Senate today and the House at the end of June, would extend NASPER for five years and provide $15 million in funding for FY 2011 and $10 million each year for FY 2012-2015. The legislation also makes minor changes to the program such as allowing grants to be used to plan or maintain a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP); requiring states to take steps to educate medical providers about the benefits of the systems; and requiring states to report comprehensive data to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to allow for evaluation of the success of the program.

The NASPER program was authorized in 2005 to provide grants through the Department of Health and Human Services to establish or improve state-based PDMPs. The first grants were awarded through NASPER beginning in 2009 and currently over 40 states are operating PDMPs or have enacted legislation to establish them.

While each state’s program is unique, in general they require that pharmacies, physicians or both submit information to a central office within the state on prescriptions dispensed for certain controlled substances. By creating these systems, states can ensure that health care providers, law enforcement officials and other regulatory bodies have access to accurate, timely prescription history information across the nation. The data in these systems can assist in the early identification of patients at risk for addiction, prevent patients from “doctor shopping,” particularly across state lines, and assist with investigations of drug diversion and errant prescribing practices by pharmacists or medical providers.