Lawmakers: Prescription drug abuse fight needs federal hand

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It would also ease the work of law enforcement in tracking and prosecuting drug dealers, said sponsoring Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), who called his region "ground zero" for prescription drug abuse.

"[I]t is now wreaking havoc on communities small and large and cutting across socioeconomic and gender lines," Rogers said in a statement. 

"[I]t is high time we get these systems linked up to eliminate the interstate doctor shopping which has been fueling the pill pipeline around our country." 

Forty-eight states have prescription drug monitoring programs in some form — a figure that has tripled since 2002, according to figures from Rogers's office. 

The White House's drug czar called the systems a priority in March, signaling that the proposal will likely win support from the Obama administration. 

“They need to be real-time, and they need to be interoperable across states,” Richard Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, told House members, according to The Courier-Journal.

Rogers's bill, introduced with Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), would also ease data sharing by creating uniform requirements for encryption and formatting. 

Whitehouse said Thursday that prescription drug overdoses kill "more people in Rhode Island every year than car accidents." 

"By standardizing the way states share prescription data, this important legislation would help our health and law enforcement professionals to better identify patterns of distribution and abuse, and ultimately to save lives," he said.

The bill is H.R. 4292, the Interstate Drug Monitoring Efficiency and Data Sharing Act.

This post was updated Friday at 10:42 a.m.

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