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Legislation to Curb Prescription Drug Deaths Unveiled by Assemblyman Jim Wood

For immediate release:

Sacramento, CA - Assemblyman Wood, public health representatives and law enforcement announced new legislation Tuesday to curb prescription drug abuse and deaths. Assembly Bill 623, authored by Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) aims to reduce prescription drug abuse-related deaths by reducing their access to those most prone to abusing them.

"As a dentist, I treated patients with legitimate oral and facial pain. Tragically, I also saw my share of people attempting to engage in "doctor shopping" to feed an addiction or pattern of abuse," Assemblyman Wood said. "Narcotic pain medications, or opioids, have an important role in our health care system. They provide effective relief for the millions of Americans who suffer from chronic pain. But too easily they are getting into the wrong hands."

More than 60 people die every day in the United States from prescription drug overdoses. Approximately 6.5 million people in the US abused prescription drugs in 2013, more than double those that abused heroin, cocaine and hallucinogens combined

AB 623 will require pharmacists to counsel patients on the proper storage and disposal of opioids, and will better enable health providers to prescribe abuse-deterrent formulation (ADF) opioids. ADF opioid medications provide patients with the same pain relief as conventional opioids, but incorporate breakthrough technology designed to protect against manipulating and abuse.

Dr. Wood on Tuesday demonstrated the abuse deterrent properties of one type of opioid by attempting to use several different objects to crush a pill, including a coffee grinder, mortar and pestle and hammer.

ADFs contain physical or chemical properties that make crushing, cutting and dissolving for injection difficult or that block the euphoric effect of the opioid when it is manipulated. These dangerous uses most often are the cause of overdose and death from the misuse of prescription pain medications.

"This technology is certainly not a silver bullet. It is only part of the solution; but it's a very promising part of the solution," said Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman. "Patients that have struggled with addiction or substance abuse in the past, current or recovering addicts and those who live with teens or young adults who may seek opioids for recreational use can all benefit from ADFs. Opioids with ADF also lose their street value since they are more difficult to abuse."

Almost 1.5 million Californians, ages 12 and over, were estimated to have abused painkillers in the previous year, according to a 2010-2011 government survey. Seven percent of adolescents ages 12 to 17 in California used pain relievers for nonmedical reasons in the previous year, according to 2009-2010 figures.

"AB 623 will make it easier for doctors to prescribe less than a 30 day supply of opioids, in order to limit pills available for theft and misuse. It also will expand a provider's ability to prescribe Abuse Deterrent Formula medication when they determine it is appropriate, without requiring patients to try other less effective or less appropriate drugs first," Dr. Wood said. "And it will result in pharmacists informing patients how to store and dispose of opioids as part of their counseling."

California is one of several states considering similar legislation.

Other lawmakers and advocates also spoke in favor of the bill including Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael); Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove); Ralph A. Cansimbe, Commander of the PFC Alejandro R. Ruiz Chapter, American G.I. Forum; and representatives from bill sponsors US Pain Foundation, Power of Pain and American Chronic Pain Foundations.

AB 623 supporters include: CA State Sheriffs' Association; American Chronic Pain Association (sponsor); Power of Pain Foundation (sponsor); US Pain Foundation (sponsor); Partnership For Drug Free Kids; The Wall Las Memorias; Healthy African American Families; Lupus Foundation of Southern CA; Familia Unida Living with MS; Neuropathy Action Foundation; International Foundation of Autoimmune Arthritis; CA Hepatitis C Task Force; Western Neuropathy Association; American GI Forum of CA; CA Society of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation; CA Association of Physician Assistants (CAPA); American Academy of Pain Management; American College of Private Physicians; Alliance for Patient Access