ZANESVILLE, OH – As part of National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) visited the Zanesville prescription “take-back” site, urging Muskingum County residents to safely dispose of unused prescription drugs. Brown was joined by Health Commissioner Corey Hamilton and Steve Carrel, executive director of Muskingum Behavioral Health at the Zanesville-Muskingum County Health Department to discuss efforts to crack down on the prescription drug abuse epidemic.
“Abuse of prescription drugs—especially painkillers—can devastate communities. Too many teenagers can get prescription drugs from the family medicine cabinet or from family and friends who no longer use the medicine they were legally prescribed,” Brown said. “That’s why National Take-Back Day is so important here in Muskingum County. All prescription medications—especially painkillers like Oxycontin and Vicodin—should be disposed of safely to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.
“When criminals defraud the Medicaid system to fuel prescription abuse, it’s a one-two punch to the stomach of Ohio taxpayers,” Brown continued. “Prescription drug abuse must be treated like the epidemic it is – and that means drawing a hard line against criminals, fraud, and abuse Ohio taxpayers should not be footing the bill for drug abuse and diversion, but when drug abusers or dealers use their Medicaid cards to visit multiple doctors or pharmacies, they’re feeding their addiction – or illegal drug business – on the taxpayer’s dime. That’s why I’m working to establish a Medicaid lock-in program to help stop those Medicaid enrollees who have been misusing their Medicaid cards from continuing this costly and dangerous practice. The doc-shoppers and pharmacy hoppers are on notice: Ohio taxpayers will not finance criminal activity or feed drug addiction.”
The event, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), is aimed at safely disposing of expired or unused prescription drugs, and reducing the amount of drugs available for illegal use or prescription drug abuse. Often, a prescription drug abusers first stop for a refill is at a neighbor’s or family member’s medicine cabinet. Brown helped lead a bipartisan group of senators in reauthorizing the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Drug Reporting (NASPER) Act, a prescription drug monitoring program critical to combating the abuse of prescription drugs.
At today’s news conference, Brown also outlined his plan to crack down on the “doctor shopping” and “pharmacy hopping” that fuels Ohio’s prescription drug abuse epidemic. In 2011, Ohio’s Medicaid program spent $820 million on prescription medicines. While most prescription pain medicines are used as prescribed, some criminals are defrauding the Medicaid system by attempting to acquire multiple prescriptions and filling them at multiple pharmacies – cheating taxpayers and undermining efforts to combat prescription drug abuse. Brown’s bill, the Stop Trafficking of Pills Act (STOP Act), would require national adoption of Medicaid Lock-In programs, which would crack down on the fraudulent use of Medicaid cards to obtain and fill prescriptions for addictive pain medications.
Ohio is second only to Florida in the number of oxycodone prescriptions filled, and Ohio’s death rate due to unintentional drug poisoning increased more than 350 percent from 1999 to 2008. In 2007, unintentional drug poisoning became the leading cause of accidental death in Ohio, surpassing motor vehicle crashes and suicide for the first time on record. Prescription pain medications, such as oxycodone, morphine, and methadone are largely responsible for increasing numbers of overdoses and deaths in Ohio.
Community leaders across the state have expressed concerns about the increasing problems with drug abuse and often attribute the rise in abuse to drug diversion (the unlawful channeling of regulated drugs from medical sources to the illicit marketplace of pain medications), doctor shopping (using multiple prescribers), and pill mills (doctors, pharmacies, or illegal pain clinics that prescribe and dispense prescription drugs inappropriately or for non-medical reasons or personal financial gain). A recent report indicated that drug abusers have begun to target senior citizens to gain access to prescription painkillers.