February 20, 2011

Manchin Acts to Preserve Drug Monitoring Program That Helps Keep Illegal Substances Out of West Virginia, Other States

In joint letter, Senators Manchin, Schumer, Nelson and Whitehouse urge Florida governor to maintain prescription drug monitoring program

Washington, D.C. — United States Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is taking action to ensure that prescription drugs stay out of the hands of individuals who abuse them.

In a letter to Florida Governor Rick Scott today, Manchin joined fellow Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) in urging Gov. Scott to abandon efforts to defund his state's prescription drug monitoring program. Given the prevalence of illegal prescription drug trafficking from Florida, eliminating the state’s drug monitoring program would hurt efforts to combat the scourge of drug addiction nationwide. Some experts believe that South Florida alone may be responsible for almost half of the illicit distribution of prescription painkillers in the United States.  In 2006, South Florida clinics handed out 85 percent of all the oxycodone distributed by doctors nationally.

“The effects of addiction extend far beyond the person taking illegal substances; drug abuse destroys lives, tears families apart and damages our communities,” Senator Manchin said. "I believe it is just wrong to eliminate effective efforts that help ensure harmful and dangerous substances are not getting into the hands of individuals who might abuse them. We need strong monitoring programs in place, and I can assure Gov. Scott that ending this effort will make this terrible problem worse, not better.”

 The Charleston Gazette has noted that “West Virginia has the nation's highest rate of drug overdose deaths. More than 90 percent of those deaths involve prescription drugs.”  West Virginia police “say it's common for people to travel to Florida to load up on prescriptions at storefront pain clinics.”

According to published reports, a broad and bipartisan group of office holders and law enforcement officials have criticized Governor Scott’s decision, including Sgt. M.T. Smith of the West Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations, who said: “The prescription drug monitoring program [in Florida] would have been a great help.” West Virginia State Representative Don Perdue has commented, “We know that unless we get help from the state of Florida, our ability to interdict [those drugs] is very limited.”

In addition to calling on Gov. Scott to keep funding for Florida’s prescription drug monitoring program in place, the Senators reiterated that every step possible must be taken to keep illegal prescription drugs out of the hands of those who abuse them.



A study sponsored by the Department of Justice (DOJ) showed that prescription drug monitoring programs successfully reduce both the availability of illegal prescription drugs and the probability of prescription drug abuse. In total, 42 states – including West Virginia -- have authorized drug monitoring programs, and 34 are operational.

Studies show that prescription drug abuse is a growing and serious problem in cities and states throughout America. An estimated 76,000 West Virginians use some use some sort of prescription drug for non-medical reasons each year (based on 2007 and 2008 averages).  Of those, approximately 9,000 are youth between the ages of 12 and 17, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

In 2006, drug overdoses were the leading cause of death in West Virginia for adults under the age of 45, according to West Virginia University.  These rates were the highest in the country.