Kirk, Davis Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral ‘Safe Prescribing Act’

Legislation would tighten restrictions on powerful and addictive hydrocodone painkillers like Vicodin and Lortab

WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–March 20, 2013.  U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Representative Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), along with Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Representatives Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) today introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to combat prescription drug abuse by tightening restrictions on some of the most powerful, addictive narcotics on the market. The “Safe Prescribing Act of 2013” will reclassify hydrocodone painkillers, such as Vicodin and Lortab, from a Schedule III to a Schedule II controlled substance. The reclassification will accurately reflect the drugs’ high potential for addiction and abuse. 

“As responsible leaders, we cannot stand by and let prescription drug abuse become one of the fastest growing epidemics in our country,” Senator Kirk said. “Hydrocodone addictions already account for more than 60 percent of all drug addictions and that number continues to rise. This bill will give law enforcement greater tools to monitor the distribution of these drugs and curb their abuse. I am proud to join this bipartisan, bicameral group to help curtail the amount of drug-related deaths in this country.”

“Prescription drug abuse is crippling our communities and has quickly become one of the top public health issues we face as a country today,” Davis said. “It is our responsibility to give law enforcement the tools they need to curb this epidemic and help put a stop to the spread of abuse and addiction. I thank Senator Kirk for his leadership on this issue and look forward to working with him and our colleagues in the House and Senate to address this public health crisis.”

“We have a responsibility to this great nation of ours – especially to our children – to win this war on prescription drug abuse. Drugs containing hydrocodone are some of the most abused substances in West Virginia and across the country,” Senator Manchin said. “This growing nationwide prescription drug abuse epidemic with drugs containing hydrocodone has already destroyed too many communities and devastated too many families. The heart-wrenching stories I hear from so many West Virginians underscore the serious need to immediately reschedule hydrocodone.”

“Too many of our loved ones are dying every day from prescription drug overdoses and are abusing hydrocodone painkillers for non-medical purposes,” Buchanan said, noting that 131 million prescriptions for hydrocodone were written in 2010 alone. “This epidemic has reached such violent proportions that drug deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities in this country. I have personally met with the victims of this scourge throughout Florida and credit them with inspiring this legislation. I salute Congressman Markey and so many others for joining me in this fight.” 

“Prescription drug abuse threatens families in Massachusetts and across the country with no regard for income, education, or political party. Congress needs to step up and take action to help fight the epidemic of prescription drug abuse sweeping the country,” Congressman Markey said.

Emergency room visits linked to hydrocodone abuse rose from 38,000 in 2004 to more than 115,000 in 2010. These drugs are now the most widely prescribed painkillers in the United States. The Drug Enforcement Administration has supported the change proposed by the Safe Prescribing Act since 2004. In addition, on January 25, 2013, an expert advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted 19-10 in favor of re-classifying hydrocodone painkillers as a Schedule II controlled substance. On February 14, 013, Manchin, Kirk, Buchanan and Markey urged FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to adopt the board’s recommendation immediately.

Under the new restrictions, a written prescription would be required in order to receive hydrocodone painkillers except in cases of emergency. Pharmacists would require patients to present an original prescription for refills, and traffickers would be subject to harsher fines and penalties.  

Original co-sponsors to the “Safe Prescribing Act” in the U.S. Senate include: Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Original co-sponsors to the “Safe Prescribing Act” in the U.S. House include: Chairman Hal Rogers, R-KY; Chairman Darrell Issa R-CA;  Chairman Jeff Miller, R-FL; Chairman Bill Shuster, R-PA; Rodney Davis, R-IL; Patrick Murphy, D-FL; Kathy Castor, D-FL; John Mica, R-FL; Corrine Brown, D-FL; Richard Nugent, R-FL; Alcee Hastings, D-FL; Mario Diaz-Balart, R-FL; Frederica Wilson, D-FL; Bill Posey, R-FL; Ted Deutch, D-FL; Ander Crenshaw, R-FL; Dennis Ross, R-FL; Steve Southerland, R-FL; Scott Tipton, R-CO; Lynn Westmoreland, R-GA; Bill Keating, D-MA; Joe Kennedy, D-MA; Stephen Lynch, D-MA; Dan Benishek, R-MI; Donna Edwards, D-MD; Steve Pearce, R-NM; Louise Slaughter, D-NY; Brian Higgins, D-NY; Pat Tiberi, R-OH; Steve Stivers, R-OH; Tom Marino, D-PA; Scott DesJarlais, R-TN; Stephen Fincher, R-TN; Diane Black, R-TN; Jim Cooper, D-TN; Dr. Phil Roe, R-TN; John Duncan, R-TN; Nick Rahall, D-WV; Shelly Moore Capito, R-WV.

The “Safe Prescribing Act” has also received widespread support from health care providers, addiction specialists, law enforcement, advocacy groups and victims across the nation:

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, President of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, said, “This legislation will correct an error made over 40 years ago when the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) incorrectly classified hydrocodone combination products.  There is clear and convincing medical evidence that hydrocodone has the same abuse liability as the Schedule II opioids.”

Janet Janes, co-founder and President of Mothers Against Prescription Drug Abuse, said, “It’s heartbreaking to me how we as a country are still not recognizing the horrific epidemic of prescription drug abuse that is facing us. It is of utmost importance to educate the public to the dangers prescription drug abuse presents to their children and communities. It is equally important that we eliminate abusive access to all dangerous medications.”

Suncoast mothers Ruth Lyerly and Cindy Harney, who both tragically lost their sons to prescription drug abuse, said, “For over a decade, abuse and death from prescription drugs has escalated to what now is being called an ‘epidemic.’ We contacted Congressman Buchanan a year ago and thanks to his and Rep. Markey’s ongoing efforts to have the FDA reschedule these highly addictive drugs, families might be spared the sorrow and pain of losing a child or loved one.”