WASHINGTON, DC – On Thursday, December 8, Kentucky’s Fifth District Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers delivered opening remarks at a multidisciplinary roundtable discussion that convened on Capitol Hill to hone in on the issue of prescription drug fraud. The roundtable explored and discussed practical solutions for how the government and private industry can work together to combat the growing issue of prescription drug abuse and prevent future fraud and misuse.
The prescription drug epidemic roundtable featured commentary from multiple perspectives, and included representatives from the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association, healthcare provider OptumRx, a former federal prosecutor and federal criminal health care fraud coordinator, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
“This epidemic began in the hills and hollers of Appalachian Kentucky. These powerful drugs, intended to manage pain, were suddenly creating pain in the form of overdoses, crime and uncontrolled addiction,” stated Rogers, co-founder of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse. “While the first wave hit Appalachia, this second wave is now hitting the streets of Boston, suburban families in LA, and countless communities in the South. Now the diversion of prescription pills is the fastest growing drug problem nationwide, and it will require a broad and dedicated coalition to curb the rising tide of prescription drug abuse.”
Prescription drug fraud, waste, and abuse is the fastest growing drug problem nationwide with abuse transcending state lines and socio-economic levels. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 12 million Americans said they were using opioid pain relievers without a prescription in 2010. That same year, 254 million prescriptions for opioids were filled in the United States, enough painkillers to medicate every American adult around the clock for a month.
The number of emergency room visits because of prescription drug overdoses has increased by over 400 percent in the last 10 years. Drug overdoses are second only to motor vehicle accidents in accidental deaths in our country, and prescription narcotics now kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined.
Consensus emerged from the diverse group of panelists for additional education for the public and providers, as well as accessible and affordable treatment options for patients. Other solutions discussed included enhanced data collection and analysis, and real-time information sharing to prevent fraudulent or wasteful prescriptions from being filled; and partnerships between industry and law enforcement to uncover illegal pharmacies and prescribers.
The Roundtable was sponsored by OptumRx, a leading pharmacy benefits management organization and an Optum company. Roundtable panelists included Louis Saccoccio, Executive Director, National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association (NHCAA); Joshua Stein, Senior Vice President and Principal Counsel, OptumRx; Michael Theis, Partner, Hogan Lovells, and former criminal health care fraud coordinator for the District of Colorado; and David Shurtleff, Ph.D., Acting Deputy Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse.
As part of his efforts to fight this growing epidemic, Rogers joined with Representatives Mary Bono Mack (CA-45) and Stephen Lynch in forming the bi-partisan Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse, which aims to raise awareness of abuse and to work toward innovative and effective policy solutions, incorporating treatment, prevention, law enforcement and research. Rogers has served Kentucky’s 5th Congressional District since 1981.