HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html House OKs OxyContin Database
Pubdate: Fri, 08 Mar 2002
Source: Roanoke Times (VA)
Copyright: 2002 Roanoke Times
Author: Michael Sluss
Bookmark: (Oxycontin)

Bill Must Now Be Approved By Gov. Mark Warner To Become Law


Critics Say The Program Will Be An Invasion Of Privacy For Legitimate 
Patients Using The Painkiller.

RICHMOND - The General Assembly passed legislation Thursday that would 
allow state police to establish a database to monitor prescriptions of 
painkilling drugs such as OxyContin in Southwest Virginia.

The bill's passage came on the heels of emotional appeals by lawmakers from 
far Southwest Virginia, where addiction to OxyContin has been blamed for 
more than 60 deaths and rampant increase in crime.

"OxyContin is either a miracle drug used for legitimate reasons or it is a 
drug from hell," said Del. Clarence "Bud" Phillips, D-Dickenson County, who 
told colleagues that a constituent had been robbed and killed by a man 
addicted to the drug.

Supporters of the legislation (SB 425) hope the database will enable police 
to speed their investigations of so-called doctor shoppers - the term used 
to describe addicts and drug dealers who pose as patients to get the drug 
from multiple physicians.

If an officer can track prescriptions through a database, "it won't take 
him five or six months to track that information down," said Del. Jackie 
Stump, D-Buchanan County.

"He'll be able to get that individual off the street and in jail where he 
should be," Stump said.

The monitoring program was a key recommendation of the state's Prescription 
Drug Abuse Task Force, established last year by former Attorney General 
Mark Earley. The bill, sponsored by Sen. William Wampler Jr., R-Bristol, 
was originally intended to establish a statewide program. The House amended 
the measure, opting instead for a two-year pilot program limited to the 
state's Health Planning Region III, which covers far Southwest Virginia and 
the city of Radford and the counties of Bedford, Floyd, Franklin, Giles, 
Henry and Pulaski. Montgomery County and the Roanoke Valley are not included.

The House passed the bill 59-40, and the Senate approved the amended 
measure 35-0, with one member abstaining. The bill must be approved by Gov. 
Mark Warner to become law.

Wampler told colleagues that he prefers a statewide program but hoped a 
regional approach would "stop the crisis we have in our neck of the woods."

Under Wampler's bill, the Department of Health Professions would establish 
the program and would notify the attorney general's office or local 
prosecutors of possible criminal activity by drug buyers, doctors or 
pharmacists. Pharmacists would be required to enter prescriptions of 
addictive medicines into the database. The state police's drug task force 
would control access to the information.

Lawmakers said the program could be established within 18 months if 
Virginia can get federal funding.

Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, a native of Scott County, predicted the 
program "will prove to be an effective tool for law enforcement to track 
and combat the abuse of prescription drugs, particularly OxyContin."

Kilgore's twin brother, Republican Del. Terry Kilgore, served as the floor 
manager for the bill during a tense, hourlong debate in the House. 
Opponents of the measure said the database would invade the privacy of 
legal users of prescription pain medication.

"Why in the world do we feel that we need to monitor law-abiding citizens?" 
said Del. Ward Armstrong, D-Henry County. Armstrong said his wife's aunt 
died Tuesday after a long bout with cancer in which she used OxyContin to 
ease her pain.

"This lady had never done anything more serious in her life than get a 
speeding ticket," Armstrong said. "With the passage of this bill ... she 
would have been monitored."

Del. Kris Amundson, D-Fairfax County, said the program could have "a 
chilling effect" on doctors' willingness to prescribe painkillers for 
legitimate purposes.

"There is no question that we face a very serious issue in this 
commonwealth about the abuse of prescription pain relief," Amundson said. 
"But I think this legislation would have very serious unintended consequences."

Bill supporters said a similar law passed in Kentucky helped push 
OxyContin-related crime into the Southwest Virginia coalfields, where 
addicts could escape computer monitoring. Del. Clifton "Chip" Woodrum, 
D-Roanoke, wondered whether a regional monitoring system in Southwest 
Virginia would push OxyContin crime into the Roanoke Valley and beyond. 
Woodrum said lawmakers should establish a statewide program.

"If there's a problem, it ought to be addressed in a sensible manner," 
Woodrum said.
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