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Note: This page is part of the Governor's News Archive, which holds press releases from January 2009 through September 2011. Since October 2011, recent news can be found in the Newsroom and archived news is available at

July 15, 2010

New Law Seeks to Curb Illegal Prescription Drug Use

Gov. Markell Signs Bill to Limit “Doctor Shopping,” Joins National Drug Policy Director for National Roll Out of Rx Abuse Report

Newark, DE – Surrounded by medical professionals at Christiana Hospital and the nation’s leader on drug control policy, Governor Jack Markell today signed into law an effort designed to reduce prescription drug abuse by limiting “doctor shopping” by addicts.

“The statistics around the prevalence of illegal prescription drug abuse are troubling. The personal stories of family members who have lost loved ones to this addiction are heartbreaking,” Markell said. “Since this legislation was introduced, people have shared with me their personal experiences and their support for this effort to reduce illegal prescription drug use.”

The legislation the Governor signed authorizes the state’s Office of Controlled Substances to establish a database of prescription information from pharmacies in the state to be used for the prevention of prescription drug abuse.  Doctors would be able to check the database before giving prescriptions for controlled substances, to both check drug interactions and screen for possible drug abuse. Pharmacies, excluding those in healthcare facilities, would be required to report specific information to the program.

“This rise in prescription drug abuse is no surprise to the doctors and law enforcement professionals who see its effects in our communities and are here for this signing,” said Markell.  “We have been focused on making sure that health care professionals have the best tools available to detect and prevent this kind of abuse before it ruins lives.”

Delaware’s new law drew the attention of the federal government. The Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, R. Gil Kerkikowske was there for the signing.   Earlier today, Markell was invited to join the Office of National Drug Control Policy for their release of some startling statistics around the rapid increase in illegal prescription drug use.

“The Delaware Prescription Monitoring Act, signed into law by Governor Markell today, will help ensure powerful prescription medications are available to those with a legitimate medical need, while making it easier for medical professionals to keep track of the prescription drugs used by their patients, and easier to intervene early when there is possible abuse of prescription drugs. I applaud Delaware for joining the ranks of states working aggressively to address the serious challenge of prescription drug abuse,” said Director Kerkikowske.

According to the ONDCP, the new report “reveals a 400 percent increase between 1998 and 2008 of substance abuse treatment admissions for those aged 12 and over reporting abuse of prescription pain relievers.  The increase in the percentage of admissions abusing pain relievers spans every age, gender, race, ethnicity, education, employment level, and region.  The study also shows a more than tripling of pain reliever abuse among patients who needed treatment for opioid dependence.”

Previously, the ONDCP reported that (the following bullets come from their blog

  • In recent years, the number of individuals who, for the first time, consumed prescription drugs for a non-medical purpose, exceeded the number of first-time marijuana users.[1]

  • From 1997 to 2007 there was a 400% increase in treatment admissions for individuals primarily abusing prescription pain killers.[3]

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported recently  that prescription and over-the-counter drugs were responsible for the 25% increase in drug-related emergency department visits between 2004 and 2008.  

  • By 2008 emergency department visits for misused prescription and over-the-counter drugs were as common as emergency department visits for use of illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin.  

  • Since 1999 deaths from drug use have more than doubled, surpassing homicides, suicides and gunshot wounds as causes of death.  This increase in drug overdose death rates is largely because of prescription opioid painkillers.

The bill, which mirrors efforts in effect in some other states, received broad bipartisan support in the legislature, where it was championed by Senators Brian Bushweller and Bethany Hall-Long, and Representatives Larry Mitchell and Melanie George.  Attorney General Beau Biden was at the signing and supported the measure. 

United States Senator Tom Carper has been an advocate on the federal level to curb abuse.
Additional Quotes:
"Late last year, one of the subcommittees I chair held a hearing examining how controlled substance abuse is destroying lives and costing federal and state governments billions,” US Senator Tom Carper said. “We learned that Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) were being used across the country as an effective tool to not only root out, but prevent prescription drug misuse and diversion.  That’s why I urged Governor Markell to bring this program to Delaware and I’m pleased state lawmakers showed overwhelming support for the Governor’s proposal.  The Governor’s enactment of this new law will help to crack down on Medicaid fraud, bring some stability to the state budget, and help stem the rising tide of suffering that abuse of these drugs have brought to many Delaware families."

"Illegal prescription drug abuse destroys families and is a public safety issue," Attorney General Biden stated.  "Abusers exploit the system to support their destructive drug use or drug trafficking activity.  Delaware's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program brings together information from doctors who prescribe drugs and pharmacists who dispense drugs to identify and help stop this activity, and it gives law enforcement a powerful new tool to combat this growing threat."

“This is a balanced, two-pronged approach to dealing with the growing problem of prescription abuse – the nation’s second-biggest drug abuse issue,” said Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover, who sponsored the bill. “It makes sure people can get the drugs they need while it attacks the problem of doctor shopping that’s tied to prescription abuse.”
“The law comes at this issue head on,” said Sen. Bethany Hall-Long, D-Middletown, one of the two health care professionals in the General Assembly. “It deals with substance abusers who go doctor shopping with the goal of getting multiple prescriptions – sometimes strictly to meet their own needs and sometimes to sell some of their drugs on the street.”
“This bill will provide a valuable tool in the fight against the misuse and abuse of prescription medications,” said Rep. J. Larry Mitchell, D-Elsmere. “For the first time, physicians and other prescribers will be able to monitor and determine whether excessive controlled substance abuse exists with a patient. By signing this bill into law, we will help the medical community more closely monitor its patients and provide for their safety and the safety of the community at large.”
Dr. Nicholas O. Biasotto, D.O., President, Medical Society of Delaware:  “The Medical Society of Delaware appreciates the Governor’s leadership and the collaborative process he and his administration used in developing this legislation. This process has resulted in a law which will make the prescription monitoring program a powerful tool for physicians to use in caring for their patients, while at the same time preventing drug seekers and doctor shoppers from accessing prescription painkillers to abuse. This law is a win-win for patients and physicians in Delaware.”
Dr. Robert Laskowski, President and CEO, Christiana Care Health System:  "Caring for our patients includes ensuring proper protections against misuse of prescription medicines.  This new monitoring database will aid our doctors and pharmacists in better connecting prescription information and helping keep our patients safe."

Last Updated: Monday, 05-Aug-2013 15:25:55 EDT
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