Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, announced new legislation Wednesday aimed at mitigating prescription drug abuse, especially painkillers.
"Every minute that the federal government waits to keep lethal prescription drugs from falling into the wrong hands, is another minute their families could suffer from the hydrocodone epidemic that too often imprisons or kills Westchester children and parents alike," he said while speaking osutside the offices of Student Assistance Services in Tarrytown, NY, according to Newsday New York.
The proposal, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Mark Kirk R-Ill, would reclassify hydrocodone drugs as Schedule II controlled substance. Doing so would mean those looking to obtain the drug would have to show a written or electronic prescription in addition to other regulations.
Furthermore, Schumer is pushing for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates the nation's pharmaceuticals, to require that new generic forms of OxyContin be made with anti-abuse technology already present in the brand form. Essentially, the changes would render it ineffective for those looking to abuse it through crushing and snorting it.
According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses are caused by painkillers. In 2010, 12 million people reported using them for reasons that weren't medical and/or without a prescription.
High-risk areas include rural parts of the country characterized by low-income households. People on Medicaid are prescribed painkillers at twice the rate of non-Medicaid patients and are six times more likely to overdose. In fact, one Washington State study found that 45 percent of people who died from overdoses were enrolled in Medicaid.
Finally, those with a history of mental illness or substance abuse are considered at risk as well.
"There have been too many recent tragedies surrounding prescription drugs and subsequent heroin use in the Lower Hudson valley to ignore," Schumer said, "and it's time to do more to balance the needs of patients who rely on these drugs for pain treatment, with those who are putting their lives and the surrounding community at risk."
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