Sen. Brown to Feds: Shut Down Pill Mills in Ohio

Brown Applauds Announcement that Attorney General’s Office Will Focus on Fighting Prescription Drug Abuse

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today urged the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to step-up efforts to shut down “pill mills” and fight prescription drug abuse throughout Ohio. Brown also applauded Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s pledge to dedicate funding and personnel to combat the problem.

“While prescription drug abuse affects every state, it is hitting Ohio especially hard. Deaths from prescription drug overdoses doubled nationwide between 1999 and 2006. In Ohio, they tripled,” Brown said. “I urge the DEA to redouble its efforts in Ohio to shut down illegal ‘pill mills.’ The cost of allowing these illegal operations to continue is simply too high; it perpetuates addiction, fosters drug dealing, and most tragically, leads to overdose deaths.”

Earlier this month, Sen. Brown urged the Office of Ohio Health Plans to establish a Medicaid “lock-in” Program for the State of Ohio which would crack down on the fraudulent use of Medicaid cards to obtain and fill prescriptions for addictive pain medications.  A Medicaid “lock-in” program would work to prevent prescription drug abusers from acquiring excess prescription drugs – which they may abuse or illegally re-sell – by barring them from visiting multiple doctors and pharmacies.

Last year, following meetings with community leaders throughout southern Ohio, Sen. Brown wrote to then-Governor Ted Strickland about establishing a Medicaid “lock-in” program, which would enable the Office of Ohio Health Plans to better monitor and control access to prescription drugs that are subject to abuse and trafficking.

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 pain medications are largely responsible for increasing numbers of overdoses and deaths in Ohio. Medicaid “lock-in” programs can be effective by limiting the doctors from which a high-risk patient can receive prescriptions, as well as the pharmacies from which the patient can obtain medicines.  This enables the kind of close monitoring needed to prevent high-risk patients from personally abusing or selling opioids.

Community leaders in southern Ohio and rural counties 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).

Sen. Brown’s office convened a first-of-its-kind roundtable in March 2010 that brought together federal officials from the U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, state officials from the Attorney General's office, Department of Health, and Department of Jobs and Family Services, and community leaders to discuss the issue of drug abuse in Southern Ohio.

Sen. Brown is working to combat the growing problem of prescription drug abuse and Medicaid fraud in Ohio on all fronts. Last year, Sen. Brown wrote to President Obama in support of the President's proposals to combat Medicaid prescription drug fraud and joined a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing legislation to reauthorize the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Drug Reporting (NASPER) Act, a prescription drug monitoring program critical to combating the abuse of prescription drugs. Sen. Brown has also joined his colleagues in introducing legislation that would prevent teenagers from gaining access to discarded prescription drugs by permitting individuals and long-term care facilities to deliver unused drugs for safe disposal and by expanding drug “take-back” programs.

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