PDT Staff Writer
It comes as no surprise to residents of Scioto County — ground zero for the war on prescription drug abuse — that prescription drug abuse is an epidemic in Ohio. Prescription pain medications, such as oxycodone, morphine, and methadone, are largely responsible for increasing numbers of overdoses and deaths in Ohio. U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) says Medicaid lock-in programs can be effective by limiting the doctors from which a high-risk patient can receive prescriptions, as well as the pharmacies from which the patient can obtain medicines.
Brown said Medicaid lock-in programs enable the kind of close monitoring needed to prevent high-risk patients from personally abusing or selling opioids.
“In recent years, more Ohioans have died from prescription overdoses than auto accidents,” Brown said. “The national death toll from prescription drug overdose doubled and it has actually tripled in our state. Families want answers and families want help. We know that easy access to prescription drugs has fueled the epidemic that engulfs communities in all 88 counties. This problem does not have to touch another family or take another life.”
Brown said that is why he is introducing legislation that would crack down on fraudulent use of Medicaid cards to obtain and fill prescriptions for addictive pain medications.
Brown said last year the Ohio Medicaid program spent more than $918 million on prescription medicines. He said while most prescription pain medicines are used as prescribed, some criminals and addicts are defrauding the Medicaid system by attempting to acquire multiple prescriptions and filling them at multiple pharmacies— undermining taxpayers and efforts to combat prescription drug abuse.
Brown said the Medicaid lock-in program would limit the number of doctors and pharmacies visited by convicted prescription drug abusers or high-risk prescription drug users, and would prevent the abuse, diversion, or re-sale of excess prescription drugs.
Brown said another tool is the National Drug Take-Back Day, the last Saturday in April, where Ohioans can safely dispose of unwanted prescription drugs.
“The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has estimated that Ohioans disposed of some 16 tons of unused prescription drugs, on Take-Back Day,” Brown said. “Last year, Ohioans disposed of 13 tons, so the outreach by media and others throughout the communities is helping to bring awareness, both to the problem of prescription drug abuse and the methods available to stop the epidemic.”
Brown went on to make available a list of drop-off sites where people can dispose of unwanted prescription drugs year-round. The Scioto County Sheriff’s Office, the Portsmouth Police Department and the New Boston Police Department are three of the 66 law enforcement agencies in southern Ohio that were awarded secure prescription drug drop boxes by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office in an effort to reduce drug abuse in their communities.
“Beyond the Take-Back programs, there’s more work we need to do to protect people and the integrity of the health insurance programs, especially as 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 Medicaid cards to fill false prescriptions for addictive drugs. That’s why I’m reintroducing the ‘Stop Trafficking of Pills’ act to create a Medicaid Lock-In. It would require national adoption of Medicaid Lock-In programs. Ohio now has one, but none can be as effective as if it is national. The programs limit the number of doctors from which a high-risk patient can receive prescriptions.”
Brown said it does the same for pharmacies, cutting down on the practice of pharmacy hopping by Medicaid patients who abuse prescription drugs.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.