Sen. Brown Joins Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers to Combat Prescription Drug Abuse

Legislation Introduced in the Senate and House Would Reauthorize and Extend NASPER

WASHINGTON D.C. - U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers in both chambers in introducing legislation to reauthorize the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Drug Reporting Act (NASPER), a program critical to combating the abuse of prescription drugs.

"There are more drug-related deaths in Ohio than there are auto-accident fatalities," Brown said. "This terrifying statistic underscores the need for a well-functioning controlled substance monitoring system in Ohio and across the country. NASPER provides doctors with a critical tool to help prevent prescription drug abuse, and I strongly support its reauthorization."

The legislation, introduced in the Senate today and the House at the end of June, would extend NASPER for five years and provide $15 million in funding for FY 2011 and $10 million each year for FY 2012-2015. The legislation also makes minor changes to the program - such as allowing grants to be used to plan or maintain a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP); requiring states to take steps to educate medical providers about the benefits of the systems; and requiring states to report comprehensive data to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to allow for evaluation of the program.

The NASPER program was authorized in 2005 to provide grants through the Department of HHS to establish or improve state-based PDMPs. The first grants were awarded through NASPER in 2009 and more than 40 states are currently operating PDMPs or have enacted legislation to establish them.

While each state's program is unique, in general they require that pharmacies, physicians or both submit information to a central office within the state on prescriptions dispensed for certain controlled substances. By creating these systems, states can ensure that health care providers, law enforcement officials and other regulatory bodies have access to accurate and timely prescription history information across the nation. The data in these systems can assist in the early identification of patients at risk for addiction, prevent patients from "doctor shopping," (particularly across state lines), and assist with investigations of drug diversion and errant prescribing practices. 

Brown is joined in cosponsoring the legislation by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) along with U.S. Representatives Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Bart Stupak (D-MI) and John Shimkus (R-IL).

Brown has been working to combat the growing problem of prescription drug abuse and Medicaid fraud in Ohio on all fronts. Earlier this year, Sen. Brown wrote to President Obama in support of the President's proposals to combat Medicaid prescription drug fraud. And in March 2010, Brown's office convened a first-of-its-kind roundtable in Chillicothe that brought together federal officials from the U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Agency, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and state officials from the Attorney General's office, Department of Health, and Department of Jobs and Family Services. Local law enforcement and judicial representatives also attended the meeting to share their first-hand experiences with this issue.  In addition, earlier this year Sen. Brown called for increased state and federal collaboration in fighting drug diversion and drug fraud.

Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic in Ohio. In 2007, unintentional drug poisoning became the leading cause of injury death in Ohio, surpassing motor vehicle crashes and suicide for the first time on record. Prescription opioids, or pain medications, such as oxycodone, morphine, and methadone are largely responsible for overdoses and deaths in Ohio. Many rural counties increasingly cite the use of Medicaid drug fraud as a strategy for drug users and sellers to subsidize their habits. These communities have also seen an increasing number of so-called "pain clinics" that offer a no-questions-asked front for supplying painkillers.

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