Government & Politics
10:15 am
Fri September 20, 2013

State Lawmaker Calls for Investigation into Prescription Drug Abuse in PA

One state lawmaker’s call to investigate the proliferation of prescription drug abuse in the commonwealth could be the opening salvo in a war on drug companies, or a blip on the radar in the Legislature.

Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) says he’s had it.

With the number of deaths due to overdose, with drug companies that don’t return his calls to hold a meeting to talk about the availability of prescription drugs, with the sense that there’s little to be done to break the cycle of addiction to things like painkillers that can be obtained from going to the right doctor.

“It is absolutely a disgrace, a disgrace that we’re allowing this to continue across the state of Pennsylvania and not really being proactive about what’s going on,” Di Girolamo said at a news conference Thursday. “It just absolutely defies logic. These deaths are absolutely preventable and they’re absolutely senseless.”

The House GOP’s most outspoken advocate on issues concerning mental health, disability rights, and health care access said he wants the state attorney general to throw everything it has at the problem of opioid drug availability in Pennsylvania.

To that end, though, he’s filed a non-binding resolution, so even if it passes, the attorney general’s office doesn’t have to respond.

“I think it’s time that we really step up and start to do a whole lot more and really be a lot more proactive,” DiGirolamo said.

He envisions that an investigation could lead to something like the settlement Pennsylvania received in 1998 after joining 45 other states in a lawsuit against cigarette manufacturers.

“States and attorneys general from around the country got together and sued the tobacco companies for the problems that tobacco caused in their state and set up a fund and used that fund for different reasons,” DiGirolamo said.  

He’d like to fund drug abuse treatment programs in such a scenario.

His proposal comes days after the governor noted support for a more robust statewide drug monitoring database that would allow doctors and pharmacists to screen patients for substance abuse behavior patterns.

DiGirolamo, who authored such a plan, says his measure is being re-drafted and will be introduced by Rep. Matt Baker, the chairman of a related House committee.