While Bono Mack's panel doesn't have jurisdiction over the FDA, it can get involved when legal products are diverted from their intended purpose. The panel will hear from Drug Enforcement Administration chief Michele Leonhart and Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Among the questions they'll be asked, according to an internal memo, are whether it makes sense to create prescription drug buy-back programs that don't involve law enforcement at the forefront. The DEA's first annual national prescription drug "Take-Back" campaign last year collected more than 242,000 pounds of medicines.
Bono Mack said her main concern is with so-called pill mills and illegal distribution of legal drugs, but she raised questions about physicians' prescription practices as well.
"If we're taking back tons and tons of these pills," she said, "it seems like we're overprescribing tons and tons of the pills, then."
Also testifying: Govs. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Steve Beshear (D-Ky.), who are both dealing with the prescription drug abuse epidemic in a different way. Scott has favored law enforcement-led efforts to combat illegal pill distributors, while Beshear is a champion of a national prescription monitoring program that has raised privacy concerns.
The panel will also hear from former addicts and their families, who will describe the human and emotional toll wrought by prescription drug abuse.
"I don't know of any other disease that truly is a family, where if one person has it, the whole family has it," Bono Mack. "The whole suffers from the effects of the addiction. And when you take the number of people who are addicted and then think about the whole family dynamic, think about how many people are affected in this country, it's sort of a lot of walking wounded folks out there."