March 04, 2015

Udall Introduces Bill to Combat Prescription Drug Abuse and Misuse in New Mexico

WASHINGTON - This week, U.S. Senator Tom Udall introduced legislation to combat one of the most serious health and law enforcement issues facing New Mexico communities: prescription drug abuse and misuse. Udall's Increasing the Safety of Prescription Drug Use Act would expand access to treatment options for addicted patients, strengthen training for medical professionals, and increase abuse prevention opportunities. Importantly, the bill would help medical professionals avoid overprescribing medication to patients by giving them access to real-time prescription databases across state lines.

"Prescription drug abuse is a growing epidemic nationally, and a major issue in New Mexico, which ranks among the states with the highest drug overdose death rates in the nation. Drug abuse doesn't just tear apart families - it's also weakening our communities. While recent data show we're making progress, we must redouble our efforts and continue to work with health providers, law enforcement, and community experts to fight this epidemic," said Udall, a member of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control and a strong voice in the fight to combat the nationwide prescription drug abuse epidemic. "My common-sense bill will help health care providers avoid overprescribing medication by strengthening drug monitoring systems, and expand access so more people can get the treatment they need, and communities can collaborate more easily to address the national prescription drug abuse epidemic."

The Increasing the Safety of Prescription Drug Use Act, which Udall first introduced in 2013, aims to reduce prescription drug abuse and misuse by:
- Making it easier for potentially addicted patients to access the prevention services and treatment they need;
- Strengthening prescription monitoring through the Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs by giving prescribers access to real-time databases across state lines to help avoid overprescribing medication to patients abusing addictive drugs and reduce the misuse of drugs through street sales;
- Authorizing a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) grant program to increase patient assessment and referral for potential drug abuse or misuse by expanding training among prescribers for behavioral screening, interventions and treatment referrals;
- Authorizing a grant program for states to review whether expanding prescriptive privileges for advanced practice nurses and physicians' assistants with control for specific drugs, such as buprenorphine which is used to treat opioid addiction, would increase access to treatment for addicted patients; and,
- Directing HHS to establish a working group to encourage states and counties to increase ongoing opportunities for proper medication disposal and review making naloxone, a medication used to counter the effects of an opioid overdose, available behind the counter for emergency overdose situations.

Numerous medical organizations support Udall's bill, including the New Mexico Board of Pharmacy, New Mexico Primary Care Association, New Mexico Pharmacists Association, New Mexico Nurses Association, New Mexico Public Health Association, University of New Mexico Project ECHO, American Academy of Pain Medicine, American Association of Nurse Practitioners, and Harm Reduction Coalition.

"Forty nine states now have Prescription Drug Monitoring programs. While they have significant impact in the states, coordination between states still has issues. The 'Increasing the Safety of Prescription Drug Use Act of 2015' would enhance existing programs by making electronic monitoring of prescription drugs computer programs compatible between states as well as managing interoperability between the state programs and state and federal agencies." -- R. Dale Tinker, Executive Director of New Mexico Pharmacists Association

"Specific provisions that will have a major impact include expansion of the availability of naloxone for reversal of overdose, and expansion of prescriptive authority for buprenorphine to include Advance Practice Nurses and Physician Assistants. Project ECHO strongly supports this legislation." -- Sanjeev Arora, Founder and Director of Project ECHO, and Miriam Komaromy, Associate Director of Project ECHO

"With nurse practitioners working in every geographical area of this country, they see and treat all types of patients including those with opioid addiction. Allowing NPs to prescribe Buprenorphine (Suboxone) as an opiate replacement therapy that can be used in the treatment of opiate addiction, as well as other medications for the treatment of opioid addiction, would increase access to this life-saving treatment." -- Debra Swan, Associate Vice President of Federal Government Affairs, American Association of Nurse Practitioners

An estimated 6.1 million Americans abuse or misuse prescription drugs, and an average of 50 Americans die each day from prescription painkiller overdose. While nonmedical use of prescription painkillers costs the U.S. economy more than an estimated $53 billion annually, each dollar invested in drug addiction treatment saves the public $12 in medical and criminal justice costs.

The full text of Udall's bill is available HERE.