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April 25, 2013

Senate approves drug bill

NORMAN — The Senate has approved legislation designed to curb the widespread abuse of prescription drugs in Oklahoma.

House Bill 1419 is a bipartisan effort to address fraud and doctor shopping by strengthening the state’s prescription-monitoring program.

Sen. Rob Standridge, the Senate author of HB 1419, said the proposal represents a step in the right direction, but the state must address broadly the epidemic of prescription drug abuse in its overall public health strategy.

Standridge noted that the Centers for Disease Control rank Oklahoma among the top states for both prescription painkiller sales and drug overdose death rates. More than 80 percent of drug-related deaths in Oklahoma are caused by prescription drugs.

“It’s time for the state to do some soul-searching on this issue,” said Standridge, R-Norman.

“It is simply not acceptable that our state be a leader in addiction to prescription painkillers, and that our children should have to grow up in an environment where powerful pharmaceuticals are so readily available.

“This measure represents an important step toward giving our regulatory bodies the tools they need to effectively monitor the distribution of drugs. As a state, however, it is time for us to have a frank discussion about what else we can do to solve this.”

Standridge credited Rep. Richard Morrissette, the house author of HB 1419, for his work on the proposal. Standridge said passage of the legislation sends the message that partisan politics doesn’t have to stand in the way of good policy.

“This is desperately needed legislation that addresses an area of very serious concern for our state as a whole,” Standridge said. “Mere partisanship shouldn’t stand in the way of a worthwhile idea. Oklahomans want to see their legislature get the job done on the issues that matter most in their lives, regardless of their political affiliation. By passing this bill, we are sending the message that we can do just that.”

The measure provides for real-time reporting to physicians by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

The agency will be able to send a message flagging patients when they attempt to fill typically abused prescription drugs repeatedly.

HB 1419 was approved last week by a vote of 44-0, and now returns to the House for further consideration.

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