W.Va. senators, representative introduce prescription drug abuse bill

WASHINGTON — Two Democrats from West Virginia are sponsoring legislation in the House and Senate to combat prescription drug abuse.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller announced that he and Rep. Nick Rahall had introduced the bills, both called the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, due to a dramatic increase in deaths and overdoses from prescription drugs in their state; the two originally introduced the bills in 2011, and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also is cosponsoring the new bill. Rockefeller said West Virginia has one of the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in the country, and 90% of drug-related deaths result from misuse and abuse of prescription drugs, particularly opioid painkillers.

With 22 million people abusing painkillers since 2002, prescription drugs are second only to marijuana among the most widely abused drugs, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

"I've reached out to West Virginians — healthcare providers, schools, pharmacists — asking for new ideas on how to reduce prescription drug abuse," Rockefeller said. "This legislation reflects that real, on-the-ground feedback from West Virginia."

The bills include new training requirements for healthcare professionals before they can be licensed to prescribe these drugs; consumer education on the safe use of painkillers and preventing diversion and abuse; basic clinical standards for safe use and dosage of pain drugs; increased federal support for state prescription drug monitoring programs; and comprehensive reporting of opioid-related deaths to help guide solutions.