Before my election to Congress, I served more than thirty years as a community pharmacist. In that time, I witnessed and participated in some of the greatest advancements in the history of medicine.
I have seen diseases that once required hospitalization become illnesses treated from home with medication. I have seen an antibiotic regimen that once required four tablets each day for ten days replaced with six tablets over five days. I have seen a deadly disease like Hepatitis C cured by medication in just ninety days.
The advances in pharmaceuticals over my career can be described as nothing less than a miracle. I have been blessed to watch prescription medications save lives. At the same time, I have watched as addiction to them ruined careers, families, and lives.
According to the CDC, 44 people in the US die every day from prescription painkillers.
Overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in the US exceeding car accidents.
With the rise of prescription opioid addiction comes the rise of heroin addiction. If an addict is unable to get prescription drugs the next place they likely turn is heroin.
Abuse and addiction to prescription opioids and heroin has become an epidemic in our nation and something needs to be done.
Recently, I participated in the National Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit. While there is no easy solution, reflecting on the summit I would like to share what I believe needs to be done to address this epidemic.
The House, the Senate, and the Administration need to work together. The Administration has presented ideas and Congress is committed to passing legislation. In fact, House Leadership has said we will vote on legislation this month.
The Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services need to take larger roles in the solution and the Department of Veterans Affairs needs to reduce their prescriptions of opioids. They are prescribing too many opioids at too high quantities.
State governments and medical boards need to remove bad actors. Even in my area in South Georgia there are pharmacists who won’t fill prescriptions from certain doctors. We need clear Centers for Disease Control guidelines and enforcement from state medical boards to ensure physicians, nurses and pharmacists are following the rules.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers need to fill the void between ibuprofen and opioids. I know first hand that a patient will not believe that an over the counter drug will work as well as a prescription. I am confident with the research and development that exists today we can fill the void and find another option.
Finally, I believe marijuana laws in our nation need to be addressed. I am adamant in my belief that marijuana is a gateway drug and it has no place in our society and I call on the states that have legalized its recreational use to undo what they have done. It is not the right direction for our country and is adding to this epidemic.
At the end of the day I still believe we have the greatest health care system in the world and, together, we can and will overcome this crisis.