by MOLLY MOSER and STEPHANIE GLANTZ
In 2008, drug poisoning became the leading cause of injury and death in the United States, surpassing even the number of deaths attributed to motor vehicle accidents. Nevada currently has the third highest incidence of drug poisoning. The Nevada Senate Committee on Judiciary met Wednesday morning to hear Senate Bill 75. The presentation of the bill to the committee—and the packed hearing room—opened with the aforementioned statistics.
Senate Bill 75 would allow for people who have become addicted to a prescription drug to sue both the manufacturer of the drug and the medical care provider who prescribed it to them. Individuals would be able to sue for the costs of rehab as well as the necessary attorney fees and costs. In such situations, a physician could only be held liable if a claimant could prove that said physician knew or should have known about the person’s addiction to a prescription drug. The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control reported that the drug overdose death rate in Nevada during 2008 was 19.6 individuals per 100,000, while the overall United States rate of drug overdose death was 11.9 individuals per 100,000.
Bill sponsor, Senator Tick Segerblom, testified in favor of the measure during Wednesday’s meeting. Segerblom said the point of the bill is both to provide help to those who buy prescriptions and to aid those who’ve become addicted to prescription drugs.
“These drugs are being used as they’re intended to be used; everyone knows what they’re used for and they know the consequences,” Segerblom said. “The question is: why buy this? Who bears the saddle?”
The Prescription Monitoring Program is one of the largest resources in Nevada for fighting prescription drug addiction. It is a 24-hour online database available to physicians and pharmacists, which allows them to search for certain substances a patient has been prescribed. The only problem with the database is that it doesn’t have progress notes to accompany the information. This means a patient who is reasonably on a number of controlled drugs, and may not be abusing them, can’t be verified.
Testifying in favor of the bill was Lisa Adams, the Program Administrator of the Prescription Controlled Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force. Adams said that the mission of the PMP database is to help improve health care by offering practitioners and pharmacists information that can help reduce prescription overdose and decrease the misuse of prescription drugs among patients.
“Prescription overdose is a huge problem across the country,” Adams said. “In no way do we want to limit access of a medication to patients who truly have a legitimate need.”
Testimony against the bill was given by several representatives of research manufacturing companies, as well as a number of physicians. Marjorie Powell, senior assistant general counsel for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said she agrees that drug abuse is a concern; however, she believes there needs to be more education for the public and physicians about drug abuse and how to identify a patient who would or could be addicted. Powell said with more education about drug abuse, it would be easier for physicians and health care providers to identify who is misusing prescribed substances. Powell said PhRMA has been working with the National Governor’s Association to develop programs that will help states identify what they can do to address the problem of drug abuse.
“We’ve been working very closely with those states and are looking to improve the PMP programs and additional treatment options for addicted people,” Powell said