Sen. Brown targets prescription drug abuse with new billWritten by Brian Bohnert | | email@example.com
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) spoke at a local pharmacy on Aug. 26, highlighting proposed legislation that aims to curtail prescription drug abuse and strengthen penalties for pharmaceutical theft in Ohio.
During a press conference at Kahler Pharmacy in South Toledo, Brown outlined the Strengthening and Focusing Enforcement to Deter Organized Stealing and Enhance Safety (SAFE DOSES) Act, a bipartisan bill committed to eliminating prescription drug crime on Ohio streets.
“Drug addicts have shown that they will stop at nothing to feed their addiction,” Brown said in a news release. “We must equip local and federal law enforcement with the right tools to crack down on pharmaceutical theft, including tougher jail sentences for these criminals. Not only will this help keep prescription painkillers off our streets and out of the hands of abusers, but it will help protect pharmacies and their employees from being targeted in these often-violent crimes.”
According to the news release, if passed, the SAFE DOSES Act would:
- Prohibit stealing, fraudulently obtaining, or trafficking a medical product such as prescription drugs.
- Increase criminal penalties when death occurs as a result of a stolen substance.
- Enhance civil penalties for profits made off of stolen products.
- Increase penalties for “fences,” when someone knowingly purchases stolen property and later resells it in the legitimate market.
- Put pharmaceutical theft under the Racketeering Influenced and Correct Organization law, which has been effective in breaking up organized crime.
Although most prescription pain medications are used by patients who actually need them, Brown said there is a rise in criminals who abuse the Medicaid system by trying to acquire multiple prescriptions from doctors and having them filled at multiple pharmacies, a crime he said undermines taxpayers.
“The drugs that people are likely to steal are legal drugs that are helpful to many in our country,” Brown said. “Those people that have had traumatic injuries, car accidents or surgeries need Oxycontin or Percocet or Vicodin. They’re legal; they should be legal, but we’ve got to try to deal with those problems of addiction and try to deal with those problems of robbery beyond that.”
In an effort to eliminate pill mills (doctors, pharmacies or clinics that prescribe painkillers for nonmedical reasons), “doctor shopping” and “pharmacy shopping,” Brown introduced the Stop Trafficking of Pills (STOP) Act in 2011, a bill that would require a national adoption of a Medicaid “Lock-In” program.
“It says to Medicaid beneficiaries, ‘You can only have one doctor and one pharmacist. You can’t doctor shop, you can’t pharmacy shop so you can get this pain medication at multiple places,’ ” Brown said.
Joining Brown at the press conference was Kahler Pharmacy owner, Dr. Nicholas Tabb. Since taking over the 31-year-old drugstore in March, the longtime employee said the rise in narcotic-related crime has made the safety and security of both his family and his new business a top priority.
“I’m the father of a very young family and I think any effort to keep drugs off the street, no matter which drug it is, is a good start,” Tabb said. “I live in the neighborhood and I know that drug abuse leads to crime; and, I think this measure will help keep more drugs off the streets.”
Part of that priority, he said, involves maintaining that safe, neighborhood atmosphere of his small business.
“As a pharmacist, I think people go to the doctor and come to the pharmacy to get better. They’re sick, they don’t feel well, and they come here to feel safe and to get their medication,” he said. “And, I think people would feel more safe if the place they go isn’t more likely to be robbed or held up.”
The SAFE DOSES Act recently passed through the House of Representatives and is currently awaiting Senate approval. Confident that the bill will pass by September, Brown said he hopes to have it put into effect by the beginning of next year.
Tags: "doctor shopping", "pharmacy shopping", Brian Bohnert, Kahler Pharmacy, Medicaid, Nicholas Tabb, prescription drugs, Sherrod Brown, Strengthening and Focusing Enforcement to Deter Organized Stealing and Enhance Safety (SAFE DOSES) Act