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Assembly Health & Senior Services Chair & Consumer Affairs Vice-Chair Cite Law Enforcement Steroid Abuse Scandal as Need to Expedite Program

Assembly Health and Senior Services Chair Herb M. Conaway, Jr., M.D. and Assembly Consumer Affairs Vice-Chair Valerie Vainieri Huttle today called on the Christie administration to expedite the delayed implementation of New Jersey’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, particularly in light of The Star Ledger’s recent revelations about steroid abuse throughout New Jersey’s law enforcement agencies.

The Star Ledger’s lengthy series on the issue revealed that taxpayers may have footed the bill for millions of dollars in health insurance costs for police and firefighters who were obtaining illegal or questionable prescriptions for human growth hormones.

Conaway drafted and sponsored legislation that was signed into law in January of 2008 creating the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, wherein pharmacists are to electronically transmit to the Division of Consumer Affairs information about prescriptions for controlled dangerous substances which is to be compiled for the purpose of assisting investigations of potential prescription drug abuse.

“Nearly three years after we passed this law, two administrations have now failed to get this program up and running, a program that could have prevented many of the steroid abuses we’ve seen detailed in recent news reports,” said Conaway (D-Burlington/Camden). “This is unacceptable. How many lives have to be damaged and how many taxpayer dollars have to be wasted before we see the need to get this program up and running? Given the recent revelations, I hope the administration will initiate the drug monitoring program without further delay.”

At a September Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee hearing, chaired by Vainieri Huttle, officials from the Attorney General’s Office and the Division of Consumer Affairs testified that a process was underway to set-up the program. Three months later, the program is still not in place.

“The Division of Consumer Affairs needs to make it a priority to expedite this program,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “The misuse of steroids by police and fire officials on the taxpayers’ dime is yet another instance of large-scale prescription drug abuse that could have been quickly detected and curtailed if New Jersey had a prescription drug monitoring program in place. While I believe that the division is doing its best to establish the statutorily mandated monitoring program, the Christie Administration must make this a priority. New Jersey must have a system of accountability.”