Legislation Assembly members Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D., John McKeon, Ruben Ramos, Jr., and Valerie Vainieri Huttle sponsored to crackdown on illegal steroid abuse in New Jersey’s law enforcement and firefighting communities was approved Monday by a Senate panel, moving it one step closer to final legislative approval.
The legislation was prompted by an extensive series in The Star-Ledger that revealed widespread steroid abuse in police and fire departments. In one case, at least 248 officers and firefighters reportedly obtained prescriptions for these drugs from a single Jersey City doctor.
The bill (A-1827/S-2280), which was unanimously approved earlier this by the Assembly, would require the Department of Law and Public Safety to include human growth hormones among the drugs to be monitored in the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP).
The PMP was created in 2007 to monitor controlled dangerous substances dispensed in most outpatient settings
“This steroid abuse is frightening from both a public policy and public health perspective,” said Conaway (D-Burlington/Camden). “Taxpayers have been stung and public safety has been put at risk, as has the health of the abusers. We cannot sit idly by and let this abuse continue. This bill is a step in the proper direction.”
“State taxpayers have been wrongly paying for millions of dollars in insurance costs for prescriptions that were, in many cases, issued illegally,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). “Taxpayers also have been footing the bill for the side effects of this abuse. It’s long past time for this outrage to finally stop. Taxpayers and public safety deserve better.”
Human growth hormone is not a controlled dangerous substance under federal and state laws. Therefore, prescriptions for human growth hormones would not be monitored as a matter of course under the PMP.
However, the program’s Director is authorized to expand the program to monitor drugs such as human growth hormones after a lengthy and protracted process. The process requires that the director initially determine that the drug should be monitored, taking into consideration various factors, including potential for abuse, scientific evidence or its pharmacological effects, history and current patterns of abuse, and the risk to the public health. The director is then required to monitor the drug on a temporary basis, after which the director has the discretion to permanently add the drug to the monitoring program, which must follow the regulatory process of publication in the New Jersey Register.
In light of the investigations that have revealed significant abuses in the use of human growth hormones throughout New Jersey that pose a risk to the public’s health and safety, this bill is intended to ensure that human growth hormones are added to the monitoring program as soon as possible.
“It’s bad enough that this abuse has been costing the taxpayers of this state millions of dollars,” said Ramos (D-Hudson). “But law enforcement officers susceptible to ‘roid rage’ pose a grave danger to the public safety. This measure will increase accountability and awareness and send a message that this behavior must stop.”
“Steroid abuse often comes with increased aggression, so this illegal activity by those assigned to protect our safety has been costly to taxpayers and put people at risk,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “It cannot continue. This bill will prevent abuse, save taxpayers money and hopefully lead to these abusers getting the help they need before it’s too late.”
The measure now awaits final legislative approval by the full Senate before heading to the Governor’s desk.