Sen. Brown to Florida Gov. Scott: Shut-Down the 'Oxy Express' by Maintaining Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

Tri-County Region in Florida is One of Three Major Hubs for Drug Trafficking According to DEA; Governor Has Proposed Eliminating the State Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today urged Florida Governor Rick Scott to reverse course in his efforts to eliminate Florida's prescription drug monitoring program and help keep the flow of highly-addictive and illegal prescription drugs out of Ohio. If Florida—whose doctors prescribe more pain prescriptions than any other state— eliminates its prescription drug monitoring program, it would hamper efforts to combat the scourge of drug addiction nationwide and especially in Ohio.

“Combating prescription drug abuse cuts across geographic regions – and party lines,” Brown said. “In Ohio, we have waged a bipartisan war against the prescription drug epidemic. Now is not the time for the Florida Governor to halt efforts that deter the so-called ‘Oxy Express’ of prescription drugs diverted to Ohio and other states.”

Brown noted the prescription drug pipeline in Florida supplies Ohio and other states with Oxycodone along the I-75 corridor. This August, a couple possessing a large quantity of Oxycodone, and other prescription pain pills that they had obtained from a Tampa “pill mill,” was arrested in Franklin County. The sale of these pain pills would have only exacerbated a trend that is leading to increased crime, addiction, and overdose in Ohio.

“Although every state is forced to make tough choices due to mounting budget deficits, eliminating drug monitoring programs have far-reaching implications,” Brown wrote. “Florida’s pain clinics funnel unlawful prescription medication into Ohio—which is already experiencing abuse at epidemic proportions. Now is the time to step-up enforcement and monitoring, not eliminate these critical programs.”

Prescription pain medications, such as Oxycodone, morphine, and methadone, are largely responsible for increasing numbers of overdoses and deaths in Ohio. 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 surpassed motor vehicle crashes and suicide as the leading cause of injury death in Ohio for the first time on record.  

Brown noted Ohio leader’s dedication to combating prescription drug abuse. Both the Strickland and Kasich Administrations in Ohio have advocated for thorough and comprehensive approaches to combating prescription drug abuse. Governor Strickland established a task force that produced strong recommendations for combating this issue, and Attorney General Mike DeWine has announced several initiatives aimed at cracking down on the “pill mills” that offer easy – and illegal – access to prescription pain medications.  

Brown is working to combat the growing problem of prescription drug abuse and Medicaid fraud in Ohio on all fronts. Earlier this year, Brown wrote to the Kasich Administration 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. Last month, Brown wrote to the Drug Enforcement Administration, requesting additional federal efforts in cracking down on “pill mills” across Ohio.

Last year, Brown 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.

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.

Full text of the letter is below:

March 2, 2011


Office of Governor Rick Scott
State of Florida
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Dear Governor Scott:

I understand that your recent budget proposal eliminated Florida’s prescription drug monitoring program.  Representing a state that has seen an influx of diverted prescription drugs from Florida, I am writing to urge you to reverse course and support rigorous monitoring of oxycodone and other prescription opioids in your state.

The decisions you make in regard to prescription drug abuse in Florida will have a direct impact on Ohio, which is second only to Florida in the number of Oxycodone prescriptions filled.  This unfortunate statistic underscores the magnitude of the prescription drug epidemic in my State.   Ohio’s death rate due to unintentional drug poisoning increased more than 350 percent from 1999 to 2008. Statistics gathered on overdoses in 2008 indicate that Oxycodone and other opioids caused more overdoses in Ohio that year than heroin and cocaine combined.   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, such as Oxycodone, morphine, and methadone, are largely responsible for increasing numbers of overdoses and deaths in Ohio.   Recent estimates indicate that the annual costs of unintentional drug overdose in Ohio is approximately $3.5 Billion in “fatal” costs (including medical, work loss, and quality-of life loss associated with fatal drug overdoses ) and $31.9 Million in the costs of hospital admissions for non-fatal prescription drug incidents.

Failing to take action in Florida to combat Oxycodone abuse serves to help sustain the illegal prescription drug pipeline in your state –  a pipeline that supplies Ohio and other states along the I 75 corridor.   Unfortunately, the link between Florida’s response to its Oxycodone epidemic and the magnitude of the problem in Ohio is not just theoretical.  A recent example:  In August, a couple possessing a large quantity of Oxycodone and other prescription pain pills that they had obtained from a Tampa pain clinic was arrested in Franklin County, Ohio.   The sale of these pain pills would have only exacerbated a trend that is leading to increased crime, addiction, and overdose in Ohio.

Both the Strickland and Kasich Administrations in Ohio have advocated for thorough and comprehensive approaches to combating prescription drug abuse.  Governor Strickland established a task force that produced strong recommendations for combating this issue, and Attorney General Mike DeWine has announced several initiatives aimed at cracking down on the “pill mills” that offer easy – and illegal – access to prescription pain medications.  I urge you to follow their lead and do everything in your power to choke off the supply of unjustifiably prescribed and dispensed prescription pain killers, and to address the drug dealing and addiction that inevitably follow.  Your action – or inaction – has national implications, and I urge you to be proactive in your efforts to combat the pain pill epidemic.

 Sincerely,


Sherrod Brown
United States Senator

 

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