Bills could aid drug abuse fight
HUNTINGTON -- Two bills pending in the W.Va. House of Delegates would add new tools in the fight against prescription drug abuse if passed before the legislative session adjourns April 13, according to Sen. Evan Jenkins, D-Cabell.
Senate Bills 10 and 11 are in House Judiciary and House Health and Human Resources, respectively, after passing in the Senate. Jenkins said the duo would be valuable additions to the war on prescription drug diversion and misuse.
"These would both be powerful tools in the fight," Jenkins said.
Senate Bill 10, introduced by Jenkins and Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, would allow for more flexibility by the state's boards of medicine, osteopathy and dental examiners in initiating disciplinary proceedings based on information received from physicians, hospital administrators, professional societies and others about possible pill mills and rogue physicians.
"This bill would make it perfectly clear that the licensing board, if a practitioner has been identified as an outlier, can initiate an investigation based on information received alone," Jenkins said. "Candidly, it's very frustrating when everybody in the community knows where these pill mills are, but nothing can be done about it until law enforcement conducts a raid.
"This would allow a licensing board to be more proactive is going after suspected pill mills and doctors who are acting improperly, unethically or illegally."
Senate Bill 11 mimics federal legislation introduced in March by U.S. Sen Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., that would reclassify hydrocodone painkillers sold under the brand names Lortab and Vicodin, from a Schedule III to a Schedule II controlled substance. The reclassification would limit a physician to writing three 30-day prescriptions for the drug before requiring a patient to schedule a follow-up appointment.
Jenkins said concerns in the Senate Judiciary Committee over distribution of the drugs as well as security in stores and pharmacies, caused lawmakers to back off an official reclassification, but added a Schedule II-type dosage control.
"While I still support making it a Schedule II, we're going to keep it a Schedule III but add Schedule II-type dosage control," Jenkins said. "Basically, what it says is you're only allowed to get a thirty-day supply and cannot have any more than two refills.
"We've tried to thread the needle, and I think we've taken a pretty proactive approach while we're waiting on the feds to update the federal schedule," he continued. "We want to take this approach to address the mass quantities out there available for diversion."
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