Although it is shocking that the national death toll from prescription overdoses has doubled in recent years, what is even more alarming is that in our state, it has tripled. In fact, since 2007, more Ohioans have died from accidental prescription drug overdoses than auto accidents. This is unconscionable. Ohio families deserve help and they deserve answers.
We know that easy access to prescription drugs has fueled the prescription drug epidemic that engulfs communities in all of Ohio’s 88 counties. But fortunately, this problem does not have to touch another family, or take another life. Prescription pain medications, such as Oxycodone, morphine, and methadone – which are largely responsible for increasing overdoses and deaths – can be disposed of safely.
That’s why efforts, like National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, which was held this year on the last Saturday in April, are so important. The Ohio Attorney General’s office estimated that Ohioans disposed of more than 16 tons of unused prescription drugs on Take Back Day, this year. Last year, Ohioans disposed of 13 tons, so it’s clear that we are making strides in bringing community awareness – both to the problem of prescription drug abuse and to the methods available to stop the epidemic. Although the national Take Back Day has come and gone, there are drug drop off locations throughout Ohio that operate all year. In order to find a site near you, please visit: http://www.brown.senate.gov/rxtakeback.
But beyond prescription take-back programs, there’s even more work we can do to protect families and the integrity of health insurance programs – especially as some bad actors use the Medicaid system to fuel their addictions or obtain prescription drugs to sell. We can save taxpayer dollars – and lives – by stopping criminals and addicts from illegally using Medicaid cards to fill false prescriptions for addictive drugs.
That’s why I will reintroduce the Stop Trafficking of Pills Act, to create a “Medicaid Lock-In”. This legislation would require national adoption of Medicaid Lock-In programs that limit the number of doctors from which a high-risk patient can receive prescriptions. It does the same for pharmacies – cutting down on the “pharmacy hopping” and “doctor shopping” of high-risk patients who abuse or sell these powerful drugs.
This is important because the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found some 65,000 cases in which Medicaid beneficiaries visited six or more doctors, and up to 46 different pharmacies to acquire prescription drugs. GAO also found that about 1,800 prescriptions written for dead patients and some 1,200 prescriptions were “written” by dead physicians. This is illegal, immoral, and has cost the lives of far too many people. This must stop.
Since 2011, I’ve worked to stop this problem – by urging Attorney General Holder to work with state agencies to establish tactical diversion squads and calling on Governors to stop the “Oxy-Express”, the prescription drug pipeline from states like Florida to Ohio.
We cannot afford to let improper disposal, pharmacy-shopping, and doctor-hopping threaten the safety of Ohio families. Together, we can move forward and create safer communities by addressing the concerns of Ohioans who are eager to end prescription drug abuse – and save lives.
Sherrod Brown is a United States Senator from Ohio.