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Proposed drug law change would battle prescription drug abuse

Updated: Thursday, September 19 2013, 06:19 PM CDT
Reported by: Donna Kirker Morgan

HARRISBURG -- There is a prescription drug overdose epidemic spreading in our country and startling statics are behind some new proposals in Harrisburg.

Nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses are caused by prescription painkiller, also called opioids.

These drugs were involved in 14,800 overdose deaths in 2008 -- more than cocaine and heroin combined.

The unprecedented rise in overdose deaths in the U.S. parallels a 300-percent increase since 1999 in the sale of these strong painkillers. 

That last statistic -- the increase in sales in painkillers -- is at the heart of a new resolution unveiled Thursday.

A state lawmaker wants the attorney general to investigate the marketing of perscription painkillers in the same way.

“I've got a box of pictures of dead kids and talk to parents about absolute anguish dealing with children's addiction,” Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-18, said.

“I'm tired of going to funerals. I've had it. Drug companies have to take more responsibility for what's going on," he added.

The Bucks County lawmaker wants the state attorney general to look into the sales and marketing of prescription painkillers.

More than 10 years ago, it was the same type of investigation that lead to a multi-state billion dollar tobacco settlement that helped to create new stop smoking programs and other healthy living efforts.

This idea is being supported by people who have lost loved ones due to overdoses.

"It would be interesting to learn how these are being marketing if there's any incetive for percribers to prescribe drugs for people,” said Phil Bauer of York County.

"(I'm) not saying that is the case but it would be nice to find that out,” he added.

Since his son’s death in 2004 from prescription painkillers, Bauer has been working to build awareness about this epidemic, but he see the problem continue to grow.

“I think it's a terrific idea. It's so important that our drugs are marketed responsibly and ethically so I fully support what DiGirolamo is proposing here,” Bauer said.

If there is evidence of irresponsible marketing, DiGirolamo is proposing a fund be created through fines that would be used for drug rehab programs.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane's office hasn't yet see the resolution but a spokesperson says reducing prescription drug abuse is a priority for her office and they will take this seriously.
Proposed drug law change would battle prescription drug abuse

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