WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the wake of recent abuses by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in overprescribing medication to veterans, Representative Jackie Walorski (IN-02), a member of the House Veterans Affairs’ Committee, introduced legislation last week requiring all Veteran Administration Medical Centers (VAMCs) in Indiana and across the nation to participate in their respective state’s drug monitoring program.
H.R. 4279 increases transparency by requiring VAMC s to provide specific information about the prescription of opiates and other narcotics to their corresponding statewide prescription drug monitoring program.
In Walorski’s home state of Indiana, the Indiana State Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (INSPECT) is a statewide electronic database that collects designated data on prescription drugs dispensed in the state. Currently, each VAMC in Indiana may participate in INSPECT at their discretion, but are not required by law to do so. The statewide system requires other doctors, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners to check patient records in INSPECT before prescribing painkillers, with pharmacists responsible for recording related prescriptions they fill.
“Like other states around the country, Indiana is in the midst of a prescription drug epidemic,” Walorski said. “This is related in part to increased prescriptions for opioids, and after speaking with local officials, I was troubled to discover that Veterans Affairs Medical Facilities are not required by law to report the amount of powerful drugs and opiates they prescribe.”
Walorski’s legislation comes after recent news of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) visiting the Marion VA in Indiana examining the high number of narcotic and opiates purchased by the hospital in recent years. According to court documents, the hospital bought 832,310 tablets of hydrocodone in 2014.Through just the first three quarters of 2015, the amount of hydrocodone purchased by the VA has increased to more than one million pills.
“My legislation that will ensure the VA follows the same rules and regulations as all other doctors and pharmacists to ensure veterans don’t abuse prescription drugs. I’m committed to increasing oversight and transparency over VA doctors to allow us to more closely monitor if veterans are being improperly treated.”
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, founder and creator of Indiana’s Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force, praised Walorski for her work on this legislation. “The drug abuse and overdose crises wreaking havoc in our state and country today are man-made problems that require man-made solutions,” said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, co-chair of the Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force. “The medical professionals charged with protecting our veterans should be actively involved in these solutions, especially considering veterans may be more at risk for addiction as they too often battle chronic pain and mental health issues associated with their service and sacrifice to our nation.”
Earlier today, Walorski spoke on the House floor introducing her legislation, click here to watch her remarks.