U.S. Congressmen Matt Cartwright and Blake Farenthold Introduce Bipartisan Servicemembers and Veterans Prescription Drug Safety Act of 2013
Washington – Last week, U.S. Congressmen Matt Cartwright (D-PA-17) and Blake Farenthold (R-TX-27) introduced H.R. 3714, the bipartisan Servicemembers and Veterans Prescription Drug Safety Act, which aims to decrease accidental drug overdoses among servicemembers and veterans by implementing prescription drug take-back programs. Companion legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) prescription rate for opioids has risen by 287 percent between 1999 and 2012. Consequently, VA-enrolled veterans have a drug overdose rate double that of the civilian population. There is substantial evidence that prescription drug abuse is a major contributing factor in the deaths of numerous servicemembers and veterans.
Drug take-back programs have been found to substantially decrease accidental overdose. At present, only the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) can authorize entities to collect and properly dispose of prescription drugs from ultimate users. Neither the DoD nor VA is permitted to conduct prescription drug take-back programs at their pharmacies. Thus, a service member or veteran is unable to return unused medications to the DoD or VA facility that prescribed the medications in the first place. This legislation would permit the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veteran Affairs to implement prescription drug take-back programs for servicemembers, veterans, and their families at DoD and VA pharmacies.
According to VA, there were nearly 1 million veterans living in Pennsylvania as of September 2012. There are also 10 VA medical centers in the commonwealth including the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center. Furthermore, approximately 36 percent of Tobyhanna employees are veterans.
“I am proud to work with Rep. Farenthold on this important legislation. The suicide rate amongst our nation’s veterans is alarming and completely unacceptable. We have a responsibility to ensure that our military, veterans, and their families are safe from prescription drug abuse,” said Representative Cartwright. “By providing servicemembers and veterans with access to drug take-back programs, we can protect them and save lives.”
“Our veterans and military personnel currently have no means to properly dispose of unused prescription medications,” said Representative Farenthold. “That’s a contributing factor to the rise in accidental overdoses, and it must be dealt with to save lives. Drug take-back programs have shown to be an effective solution to this problem, and our legislation simply extends the reach of those programs to the DoD and VA.”