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Prescription Painkiller Bill Stalled by Outcry from Pharmaceutical Lobbyists

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Prescription painkiller abuse is a real problem. From Vicodin to Oxycodone, prescription drugs can seem harmless at first when they are given as a short-term solution for pain management, but use can quickly morph into a full-blown addiction when used for long periods of time or for pain that would be better managed with less potent drugs.

Finally, Congress acted to curb this problem with the passage of a bill in the Senate that would add new restrictions that would make it harder to obtain powerful prescription painkillers. However, that move was quickly dampened by a wellspring of lobbying by pharmacists and drugstores this month. The bill would add controls that would require patients to obtain a new prescription everytime they want to refill a hydrocodone painkiller, require a higher level of security for storage and transportation of the drugs, and enact harsher punishments for abuse. After the Senate's approval, the House announced that they also planned to pass the bill by the end of this month.

Nevertheless, lobbying groups have posed a strong opposition by arguing that the new restrictions would make it more difficult for individuals to in pain to obtain medication and that pharmacies would be overburdened by administrative costs. Even the lobbying arm of the American Cancer Society expressed dismay, arguing that the new controls would make it more difficult for cancer patients in pain by forcing them to return to the doctor for a new prescription everytime they wanted a refill and burden them with extra co-pay costs in the process. But doctors and the DEA are not convinced by these arguments. For example, Dr. Andrew Kolodny, chairman of the psychiatry department at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, says that he sees patients that became addicted to prescription painkillers in their late teens and now take 20 to 30 pills per day. The DEA also says that the rate of prescription drug abuse has skyrocketed in the last decade with hydrocodone the most abused prescription painkiller. Given these facts, perhaps it is time for pharmacies to open their eyes to the fact that prescription painkillers are powerful drugs that do require greater regulation to save lives.