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Burke’s and Johnson’s Rx Drug Abuse Bill Passes Ohio House

COLUMBUS—Today, legislation to address prescription drug abuse and strengthen oversight measures passed from the Ohio House of Representatives by a unanimous vote of 97-0. The sponsors of House Bill 93, State Representatives Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) and Dave Burke (R-Marysville), introduced the bill in early February to combat the growing prevalence of prescription drug abuse and fatalities within the state of Ohio.

House Bill 93 will enhance the current Ohio Automated Rx Review System (OARRS)—which was established in 2006 to assist health care professionals in identifying drug-seeking behaviors—to provide additional oversight. It will also limit prescribers’ ability to personally furnish certain controlled substances; enact Medicaid reforms to improve consumer education and allow for better care coordination; improve licensing and law enforcement for pain-management clinics; and develop a statewide prescription drug “take-back” program.

“This is a great day for this legislative body, the state of Ohio, and the victims of prescription drug abuse and their families,” said Burke, a pharmacist and owner of Dave’s Pharmacy in Marysville. “Finally we have taken a monumental step toward strengthening our communities and building a solid structure for our public health policies.

Opiates alone were responsible for nearly 40 percent of Ohio’s approximately 1,400 overdose deaths in 2009, according to the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services. From 2003 to 2008, opiate deaths in Ohio more than doubled in a jump from 399 to 915 fatalities, with an average of four Ohioans dying each day as a result of overdoses.

In Ohio, unintentional drug overdoses surpassed motor vehicle crashes and suicide as the leading cause of injury death in Ohio. It has also been reported that the highest rates in the state for these deaths are in southern Ohio, where seven of the 10 counties with the highest death rates are located.

“Ohio’s prescription drug abuse epidemic is quickly spreading throughout our homes and our communities,” said Johnson, an osteopathic physician and former Scioto County coroner. “Southern Ohio in particular has suffered a drastic rise in the number of fatalities as a result of prescription drug overdoses. I’m very pleased that this measure passed from the House with strong bipartisan support. Today saw a great step forward in the ongoing effort to rid Ohio of this scourge.”

House Bill 93 will now move to the Ohio Senate for further consideration and debate.