STOP Act seeks to halt drug abuse

With more Ohioans in recent years dying from accidental prescription drug overdoses than automobile mishaps, Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown plans to re-introduce a bill Wednesday to combat prescription drug abuse and to target “doctor shopping and pharmacy hopping.”

The bill — Stop Trafficking of Pills (STOP) Act — would crack down on the fraudulent use of Medicaid cards to obtain and fill prescriptions for addictive pain medications.

“We know the easy access to prescription drugs has fueled this epidemic that engulfs communities in all 88 counties, but this problem does not have to touch another family or take another life,” Brown said Wednesday during his media teleconference. “Prescription pain medication such as oxycodone, morphine and methadone are largely responsible for increasing numbers of overdoses and deaths in Ohio and can be disposed of safely.”

Efforts have already been made to combat prescription drug abuse including National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, Brown said. Last month, during National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, Ohioans disposed of more than 16 tons — more than 32,300 pounds — of unused prescription drugs, an increase from 13 tons last year, according to the state Attorney General’s office.

“Beyond the Take-Back programs, there is more work we need to do to protect people and the integrity of health insurance programs since too many people are defrauding the Medicaid system to fuel addiction or to obtain prescription drugs to sell,” Brown said. “We can save dollars and lives by stopping criminals and addicts from illegally using Medicare cards to fill false prescriptions for addictive drugs — which is why I am re-introducing the Stop Trafficking of Pills Act to create a Medicaid lock-in program.”

The Medicaid lock-in program can be effective, Brown said, because it limits the number of physicians and pharmacies visited by convicted prescription drug abusers or high-risk prescription drug users in an effort to prevent the abuse, diversion, or re-sale of prescription drugs. This enables the kind of close monitoring needed to prevent high-risk patients from personally abusing or selling opioids.

Brown is fighting to expand Ohio’s Medicaid lock-in program, which was initiated by Gov. John Kasich, into a national program.

“Since 2011 I have worked to stop this problem urging Attorney General Eric Holder to work with state agencies to establish tactical division squads, calling on governors to stop the oxy-express — a prescription drug pipeline from states such as Florida and Ohio — and working with attorneys in Ohio and throughout the country,” Brown said. “Together we can move forward and create safer communities by addressing the concerns of Ohioans and all Americans who are eager to end prescription drug abuse and save lives.”